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S. G. & E. L. ELBERT 





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With respect and sympathy to that 

steadily increasing company 

who believe with 


that Religion is the most natural and significant 
expression of our human life, and to the 
memory of those who now rest 
from their labors in further- 
ance of this inspiring 


There have been of late various signs of fresh 
interest in Theodore Parker, and there is this fur- 
ther justification for another life of him after those 
of Weiss and Frothinghani, that the former is out 
of print and its plates have been destroyed, while 
the latter, though not so large and expensive as its 
predecessor, is larger and more expensive than our 
busier and less-moneyed people can afford to buy 
and read. Happy are those who have these books 
in their possession and have read them carefully ! 
Should any of them propose reading the book 
which I have written, they must not expect to find 
in it so much as in their greater bulk. But I 
have had in mind others who are less fortunate 
than these. I have hoped to make Parker a real- 
ity for a generation of readers born since he died, 
to many of whom he is little known, or mis-known, 
which is worse. To compress the story of his life 
into four hundred pages, and those little ones, has 
been no easy matter. It would have been much 
easier and pleasanter to make a larger work than 
Weiss's two octavos, drawing freely upon the 



The Growing Boy 1 

Student and Teacher 22 

The Young Minister 48 

The Heretic 74 

Work, Strife, and Rest 102 

Sword and Trowel 139 

Philosophy and Theology .......... 170 

The Religious Leader 200 

Anti-Slavery Word and Work 235 

The Minister at Large 264 

The Nearer View 291 


Kansas and John Brown . 319 

The Fruitless Quest 346 

After Death the Judgment 373 

Index . 407 


OF , 



1842. A Discourse of Matters Pertaining to Religion. 

1843. A Critical and Historical Introduction to the Canoni- 
cal Scriptures of the Old Testament. From the 
German of De Wette. Translated and enlarged by 
Theodore Parker. 

1843. Critical and Miscellaneous Writings. 

Contents : A Lesson for the Day. German Litera- 
ture. Life of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Truth 
against the World. Thoughts on Labor. Discourse 
on the Transient and Permanent in Christianity. 
The Pharisees. On the Education of the Laboring 
Classes. How to move the World. Primitive 
Christianity. Strauss's Life of Jesus. Thoughts 
on Theology. 

1852. Speeches, Addresses, and Occasional Sermons. 

Contents : Vol. I. The Relation of Jesus to his Age 
and the Ages. The True Idea of a Christian 
Church. A Sermon of War. A Speech delivered 
at the Anti-War Meeting in Faneuil Hall. A Ser- 
mon of the Mexican War. A Sermon of the Per- 
ishing Classes in Boston. A Sermon of Merchants. 
A Sermon of the Dangerous Classes in Society. 
A Sermon of Poverty. A Sermon of the Moral 
Condition of Boston. 

1 None of these lists is offered as complete, but the list of books and pam- 
phlets published in his lifetime is tolerably so. 


Vol. II. A Sermon of the Spiritual Condition of 
Boston. Some Thoughts on the Most Christian 
Use of the Sunday. A Sermon of Immortal Life. 
The Public Education of the People. The Politi- 
cal Destination of America, and the Signs of the 
Times. A Discourse occasioned by the Death of 
John Quincy Adams. A Speech at a Meeting of 
the American Anti-Slavery Society, to celebrate 
the Abolition of Slavery by the French Republic. 
A Speech at Faneuil Hall before the New England 
Anti-Slavery Convention. Some Thoughts on the 
Free Soil Party and the Election of General Tay- 
Vol. III. A Speech in Faneuil Hall considering the 
Speech of Mr. Webster. A Speech at the New 
England Anti-Slavery Convention in Boston, May 
29, 1850. A Discourse occasioned by the Death 
of the late President Taylor. The Function and 
Place of Conscience in relation to the Laws of 
Men : a Sermon for the Times. The State of the 
Nation, considered in a Sermon for Thanksgiving 
Day. The Chief Sins of the People. The Three 
Chief Safeguards of Society. The Position and 
Duties of the American Scholar. 

1853. Sermons of Theism, Atheism, and the Popular The- 

1853. Ten Sermons of Religion. 

1855. Additional Speeches, Addresses, and Occasional Ser- 
Contents : Volume I. Speech at the Ministerial 
Conference in Boston, May 29, 1851. Boston 
Kidnapping. Aspect of Freedom in America. 
Discourse on Daniel Webster. The Nebraska 
Question. Address on the Condition of America, 
Volume II. Anti-Slavery Addresses. Public Func- 
tion of Woman. Sermon of Old Age. 

1855. The Trial of Theodore Parker for the Misdemeanor 


of a Speech in Faneuil Hall against Kidnapping ; 

with the Defence. 
1857. The Two Christmas Celebrations. 
1859. Theodore Parker's Experience as a Minister. With 

some Account of his Early Life, and Education for 

the Ministry. 

(Published both in cloth and paper.) 


1840. The Previous Question between Mr. Andrews Nor- 
ton and his Alumni, moved and handled in a Letter to 
all those Gentlemen, by Levi Blodgett. 

1841. Discourse of the Transient and Permanent in Chris- 
tianity, preached at the Ordination of Mr. C. C. 
Shackford, May 19, 1841. 

1842. An Humble Tribute to the Memory of William Ellery 
Channing, preached October 9, 1842. 

1843. A Sermon of Slavery, delivered January 31, 1841 ; 
repeated June 4, 1843. 

1844. The Relation of Jesus to his Age and the Ages, 
preached at the Thursday Lecture, December 26, 

1845. The Excellence of Goodness : a Sermon preached in 
the Church of the Disciples in Boston, January 26, 

1845. A Letter to the Boston Association of Congregational 
Ministers touching Certain Matters of their Theology. 

1846. The Idea of a Christian Church : a Discourse at 
the Installation of Theodore Parker as Minister of 
the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Church in Bos- 
ton, January 4, 1846. 

1846. A Sermon of War, preached June 7, 1846. 
1846. A Sermon of the Perishing Classes in Boston, 
preached August 30, 1846. 

1846. A Sermon of Immortal Life, preached September 20, 

1847. A Sermon of Merchants, preached November 22, 1846. 



Christian Examiner : — 

1837-58. Robinson's Greek and English Lexicon, vol. xxii. 
p. 124 ; Gesenius's Hebrew and English Lexicon, 
vol. xxii. p. 265 ; Matter's History of Gnosticism, 
vol. xxiv. p. 112 ; Olshausen's Genuineness of the 
New Testament, vol. xxiv. p. 406 ; Roy's Hebrew and 
English Dictionary, vol. xxv. p. 129 ; Ackermann's 
Christianity in Plato, vol. xxv. p. 367 ; Dr. Henry 
More, vol. xxvi. p. 1 ; New Works recently published 
in Germany, vol. xxvi. p. 267 ; More's Works, vol. 
xxvii. p. 48 ; Cudworth's Intellectual System, vol. 
xxvii. p. 289 ; German Literary Intelligence, vol. 
xxviii. p. 135 ; Strauss's Life of Jesus, vol. xxviii. p. 
273 ; The Book of Jasher, vol. xxviii. p. 390; The Life 
of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, vol. xxx. p. 1 ; Mosheim's 
Commentaries, vol. li. p. 447 ; Du Cange's Glossary, 
vol. li. p. 448 ; Jal's Glossary, vol. li. p. 450 ; Buckle's 
History of Civilization, vol. lxiv. p. 233 ; The Mate- 
rial Condition of the People of Massachusetts, vol. 
lxv. p. 19. 
The Dial : — 

1840. July : The Divine Presence in Nature and in the Soul. 

1840. October : A Lesson for the Day. 

1841. January : German Literature. 
1841. April : Thoughts on Labor. 

1841. July : The Pharisees. 

1842. January : Primitive Christianity. 

1842. April : Thoughts on Theology : Dorner's Christology. 

1842. October : Hollis Street Council. 

1843. January : Life and Character of Dr. Follen. 
1843. October : Hennell on the Origin of Christianity. 

Note. — The Dial also contained some minor articles and poems. 

Massachusetts Quarterly Review : — 

1847. December: The Mexican War. 

1848. March : Newman's Hebrew Monarchy. 


1848. June : John Quincy Adams. 

1848. September : William ElleryChanning; Editor's Note 
to Readers. 

1848. December : Political Destination of America : The 
Free Soil Movement. 

1849. March : Mr. Prescott as a Historian. 
1849. June : Macaulay's History of England. 
1849. September: Prescott's Conquest of Mexico. 

1849. December : Mr. Polk's Administration. 

1850. March : Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

1850. June : Hildreth's History of the United States. 
1850. September : Thoughts on the Different Opinions of 

the New Testament relative to the Personality of 


Note. — If Parker wrote anything for The Harbinger, The Present, The 
Spirit of the Age, I have not succeeded in discovering the traces of his pen. 
Those in the Liberator, New York Tribune, and Anti-Slavery Standard 
generally are covered by the list of pamphlet sermons and addresses. In 
The Chronotype there are various editorials and comments on his sermons 
and speeches with some complete or partial reports of these ; few, if any t 
direct contributions. 


1861. A Bumblebee's Thoughts on the Plan and Purpose of 
Creation. Album Combe- Varin, Zurich, 1861. Re- 
printed in vol. xii. of Miss Cobbe's Edition. 

1862. Theodore Parker's Prayers : Edited by Ruf us Leigh- 
ton and Matilda Goddard. 

Note. — A later edition (1882) contained a biographical sketch by Frank 
B. Sanborn, and an Introduction by Louisa M. Alcott. 

1863-70. Theodore Parker's Works. Fourteen Volumes. 
Edited with an Introduction by Frances Power Cobbe. 
Vol. i. A Discourse of Matters pertaining to Reli- 
gion. Vol. ii. Ten Sermons and Prayers. Vol. iii. 
Discourses of Theology. Vol. iv. Discourses of Poli- 
tics. Vol. v. Discourses of Slavery. Vol. vi. Dis- 
courses of Slavery. Vol. vii. Discourses of Social 
Science. Vol. viii. Miscellaneous Discourses. Vol. 


ix. Critical and Miscellaneous. Vol. x. Critical and 
Miscellaneous. Vol. xi. Theism, Atheism, and the 
Popular Theology. Vol. xii. Miscellaneous. Vol. 
xiii. Historic Americans. Vol. xiv. Lessons from 
the World of Matter and the World of Men. 
1870. Historic Americans, with Introduction by O. B. 
Frothingham. (An American book, preceding the 
same matter in Miss Cobbe's edition.) 

1876. Transcendentalism : a Lecture. (Pamphlet, 59 pp.) 
Preliminary Note by W. C. Gannett. 

1877. A Discourse of Matters pertaining to Religion, with 
Introduction by O. B. Frothingham, Biographical 
Sketch by Hannah E. Stevenson, and Analytical Table 
of Contents by W. C. Gannett. 

1885. Passages from Theodore Parker's Writings, selected 
by Albert Walkley, 1885. 

1885. Views of Religion, by Theodore Parker. With an In- 
troduction by James Freeman Clarke. Published by 
the American Unitarian Asssociation. 

1892. West Roxbury Sermons, by Theodore Parker, 1837- 
1848. From unpublished manuscripts, with Intro- 
duction by Samuel J. Barrows, and Biographical 
Sketch by Frank B. Sanborn. 


1864. Life and Correspondence of Theodore Parker. By 
John Weiss. 

1865. Life and Writings of Theodore Parker. By Albert 
ReVille. Translated from the French of the same 

1874. Theodore Parker : a Biography. By Octavius Brooks 

1877. Life of Theodore Parker. By Peter Dean. (An Eng- 
lish book.) 

1883. Story of Theodore Parker. By Frances E. Cooke. 
With an Introduction by Grace A. Oliver. (For 
Young People.) 


Note. — This particular list is necessarily very imperfect. 

1841. The South Boston Ordination, with much related 

matter, in Vol. 5441.65, Boston Public Library. 
1847. Westminster Review. James Martineau. 

1859. Theodore Parker and his Theology : a Discourse by 
James Freeman Clarke, preached in Music Hall, 
September 25. 

1860. A Look at the Life of Theodore Parker : a Sermon 
by James Freeman Clarke. 

1860. Theodore Parker : a Discourse by A. D. Mayo. 

1860. Theodore Parker : a Discourse by William R. Alger. 

1860. Theodore Parker : a Discourse by George H. Hep- 

1860. Theodore Parker. By T. W. Higginson. Atlantic 
Monthly, October. Reprinted in Colonel Higginson's 
" Contemporaries," 1899. 

1860. National Review, Vol. xxi. 

1861. Bibliotheca Sacra, January. By Daniel Parker Noyes. 
(Able and severe.) 

1864. Christian Examiner (reviewing Weiss), January. J. 

H. Allen. 
1864. Christian Examiner (reviewing Weiss), July. D. A. 


1866. Contemporary Review. Professor Cheetham. 

1867. Fortnightly Review, Vol. viii. M. D. Conway. 
1880. Unitarian Review, June : A Discourse before the 

Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society on the Twen- 
tieth Anniversary of Theodore Parker's Death, by 
John W. Chadwick. 

1890. Unity, June 5. Theodore Parker, the Man and the 
Reformer : William J. Potter. Theodore Parker, the 
Thinker : John W. Chadwick. Theodore Parker as 
Pastor : Ednah Dean Cheney. 

1890. Theodore Parker : a Lecture by Samuel Johnson. 

1892. Christian Register, January 7. Account of the Un- 
veiling of Parker Monument in Florence. 



1875. Ezra Stiles Gannett : a Memoir. By his son, William 
C. Gannett. Chapters iii., vii. 

1878. Memorial and Biographical Sketches. By James 
Freeman Clarke. Chapter iv. 

1882. Our Liberal Movement in Theology, and " Sequel," 
1897. Joseph Henry Allen. 

1890. Unitarianism : its Origin and History. (Particularly 
Lectures v., ix., and x., the last being "Theodore 
Parker," by Samuel B. Stewart.) 

1894. Unitarian Movement since the Reformation, by J. H. 

1894. Old and New Unitarian Belief, by John W. Chadwick. 

1899. American Lands and Letters, by D. G. Mitchell. 

See also Caroline H. DalPs Transcendentalism, 1897 ; 
Frothingham's Transcendentalism in New England, 
1876 j Recollections and Impressions, 1891 ; San- 
born's Life of John Brown, 1885 ; Higginson's Cheer- 
ful Yesterdays, 1898 ; G. W. Cooke's Ralph Waldo 
Emerson, 1881, and John S. Dwight, 1899 ; Julia 
Ward Howe's Reminiscences, 1899 ; Lindsay Swift's 
Brook Farm, 1900 ; Pierce's Life of Charles Sumner, 
Vol. iii., 1893 ; William Lloyd Garrison : the Story 
of his Life told by his Children, 1885-89 ; Coleridge : 
Frederic H. Hedge, Christian Examiner, March, 
1833 ; " Philosophic Thought in Boston," in Memo- 
rial History of Boston ; and many articles and refer- 
ences in the Christian Register, The Radical, Unity, 
Christian Inquirer, and Liberal Christian. 

Note. — Reports (containing six sermons) of Meetings of Progressive 
Friends, Longwood, Pa., for 1855 and 1858, should be added to list of Life- 
time Publications. 




The town of Lexington, Massachusetts, where 
Theodore Parker was born, August 24, 1810, was 
an important factor in his development. So much 
would have been true, no doubt, if Lexington were 
one of those unhappy towns that have no history, 
reversing so the proverb which declares the nations 
without a history to be the happiest. Lexington 
might have had none, and yet, because it had woods 
and fields and streams, flowers too, and the four 
seasons with their changing looks, and Father Tay- 
lor's " folks — better than angels," it would have 
done great things for the young Theodore and the 
man he came to be. But in few other places could 
the predestination to a patriotic temper have been 
so strong as it was in Lexington, the town which 
shares with Concord the fadeless honor of that 
April day which saw the war for our American 
independence well begun. Little need was there 
for John Parker, Theodore's grandfather, to take 
a leading part in the doings of that fateful day to 


make the grandson's calling and election sure. 
But this he did, as if the destiny of his descendant 
could not be too much confirmed. 

So many Parkers appeared in the New England 
settlements at an early day that the " three brothers 
who came over together " might easily be made a 
dozen if one were sufficiently uncritical. Theodore's 
earliest American ancestor was Thomas Parker, who 
came over in 1635, in a vessel fitted out by Sir Rich- 
ard Saltonstall, and settled in Lynn. Edward 
Parker, who may have been an uncle of this Thomas, 
married Sir Richard Saltonstall's granddaughter 
in 1602. His coat of arms had for its motto JVbn 
fluctu nee flatu moveter, which motto Theodore 
Parker sometimes used upon a seal, convinced of 
its intrinsic excellence if not of its validity as 
an ancestral circumstance. The original Thomas 
moved to Reading in 1640 and was one of the 
seven founders and a deacon of the first church in 
that town. He had six sons and four daughters. 
His son Jonathan had fourteen children, after hav- 
ing written certain " dying words " in King Phil- 
ip's War, very touching in their filial piety and 
religious trust. His brother Hananiah was the 
father of John Parker, who was the root from which 
the Lexington Parkers mainly sprang, and who re- 
moved from Reading to Lexington, then Cambridge 
Farms, in 1712 or thereabout. His son Hananiah 
had died in 1711 at Port Royal, where he was 
serving in a Massachusetts regiment of the be- 
sieging army. One of his letters is remarkable for 


the daring ingenuity of its spelling and for what 
of resemblance it suggests to the miserable condi- 
tion of affairs recently before Santiago, — or does 
war furnish much the same catalogue of horrors 
every time ? 

John had nine other children, some of whom, 
married or unmarried, went with him to Lexing- 
ton. His son Nathaniel had fourteen children, 
Bethiah, the mother of whom, lived to be ninety 
years old. These facts and others already noted 
suggest a vigorous and prolific stock and prepare 
us for the size of that family of which Theodore 
Parker was the crowning joy. John's son Josiah 
was one of the first citizens of Lexington, holding 
at one time or another every local office in the 
people's gift. His nephew, Jonas Parker, a son 
of Andrew, played a heroic part on the 19th of 
April, 1775. Living next door to Bev. Jonas 
Clarke, the patriot minister, "he imbibed," says 
Mr. Hudson, the historian of Lexington, " a dou- 
ble portion of his spirit." Wounded by the second 
fire of the British, he sank upon his knees and fired 
his own piece, and then, making no effort to flee, 
received a bayonet thrust, through which his soul 

John Parker, Theodore's grandfather, was the 
son of Josiah the good citizen, and was born July 
13, 1729, and died September 17, 1775, only five 
months after his most memorable day of days. 
The Lexington Parkers gave to history and fame 
no other name of such distinction until Theodore 


arrived. Lady Adelaide Lindsay, remarkable for 
her plainness, when some one spoke of her im- 
proved appearance, said, " Yes, I believe the bloom 
of my ugliness is wearing off a little." The bloom 
of Theodore Parker's theological ugliness has, by 
this time, very much worn off for Lexington peo- 
ple ; but his grandfather's doings on the Green are 
doubtless prized more highly than the great preach- 
er's life-long work. And Theodore would himself 
have had it so. The town has marked Captain 
Parker's grave with a plain and massive gran- 
ite monument, and is about (1899) to place his 
statue on the Green, surmounting a fountain. The 
conception will be ideal, no counterfeit presentment 
of his face being obtainable. Of nothing pertain- 
ing to himself in any way was Theodore so proud 
as of Captain John Parker's deeds and words at 
the battle of Lexington. Captain Parker com- 
manded the company of Lexington minute men. 
At two o'clock on the morning of the 19th he 
called the roll of his company and ordered them 
to load their pieces with powder and ball. Get- 
ting no further news of the British advance, he 
dismissed his men, with the understanding that 
they should reassemble when the proper signal was 
given, — the drum-beat and the firing of a gun. 
It was given at half -past four, and the company was 
not well formed before the British column arrived. 
When some of his men wavered Captain Parker 
ordered them to stand their ground and threatened 
to shoot the first man who should leave his post. 


As the British drew nearer he said, " Don't fire 
unless fired upon ; but if they mean to have a war, 
let it begin here ! " And so it did. The minute- 
men did not return the first fire because only 
blank cartridges were used, but at the second, sev- 
eral of their number fell and they replied. Cap- 
tain Parker, seeing the futility of opposing fifty 
men to eight hundred, ordered his company to dis- 
perse. Seven or eight of them were killed and 
more were wounded. Later in the day they mus- 
tered again and contributed their part to the gen- 
eral demoralization and partial destruction of the 
British soldiery and to their " expedition " back 
again to Boston. 1 

Relics were not in Parker's line, but he had two 
which were to him of inestimable value. They are 
displayed in the Senate Chamber of the Boston 
State House : " The fire - arm used by Captain 
John Parker in the battle of Lexington, April 19th, 
1775," and " The First Fire-Arm captured in the 
War for Independence." These fire-arms were the 
gift of Theodore Parker to the State. The King's- 
arm was taken by Captain Parker from a grena- 
dier of the 43d regiment. So long as the two 
muskets hung in Parker's study they were to him 
a daily inspiration, and there were times when it 
seemed highly probable that he might use one or 
the other of them to begin another war. The 

1 Franklin to Dr. Priestley : " You will have heard before this 
reaches you of a march stolen by the regulars into the country by 
night and of their expedition back again." " Twenty miles in three 
hours ! " he wrote to Burke ; " scarce to be paralleled in history." 


butt end of either would have served if, when a 
fugitive slave was hidden in the house, the slave- 
catchers had appeared. 

Theodore's father, another John, was born Feb- 
ruary 14, 1761, and, consequently, he was but four- 
teen years old on that warm April day when his 
father was so busily engaged from two o'clock in the 
morning until twelve at night. Did he from some 
safe or daring vantage watch the progress of the 
fight, and when in June his father was too sick to 
go to Bunker Hill did he chafe and fret because 
his callowness denied to him the privilege of shar- 
ing in the great event ? We do not know, but it 
is certain that the father died in September, when 
it is likely that the son's boyhood ended suddenly, 
he being the third of ten children and the two older 
being girls. But the mother married again in 
1778, unluckily, being finally obliged to bring her 
thriftless husband home and support him on her 
widow's thirds. John Parker married Hannah 
Stearns in 1784 and of their eleven children Theo- 
dore was the last. So confidently was the tenth 
the last that the family sampler had been made 
upon that plan, when, after a Ave years' inter- 
val, Theodore's arrival demanded some ingenious 
changes in that piece of work. The name so 
ominously given him was one which had never 
until now bloomed on the family tree. He was 
baptized according to the family custom, for which 
the mother was probably responsible, but not until 
he was four years old, when his " Oh, don't ! " in 


which his biographers have found prophetic inti- 
mation of his mature distaste for all conventional 
forms, was clearly the small boy's dislike of water 
on his face. 

Two months before his death he began to write 
an autobiography, but, as he anticipated, he did not 
get far in it. It begins with his material sur- 
roundings. For certain botanical niceties we are 
indebted to a friendly hand, but these do not affect 
the general impression of the boy's Shakespearean 
assimilation of the early world on which he looked 
abroad. " The situation was pleasant ; a consid- 
erable valley a mile or more in length and half a 
mile wide, with a fresh meadow at the bottom 
called in deeds of the time ' the great meadow.' ' 
A brook stole through the valley and percolated 
through the soft, spongy meadow, finding its way 
at length into Charles River. The house was near 
the upper end of this valley, some three miles from 
the village centre. It stood facing the south, un- 
like its successor, which stands facing eastward. 
Theodore was the last child born in the old house, 
the site of which is marked as his birthplace by a 
massive cube of Concord granite, set there by his 
Boston friends. The site was pleasant, but it was 
not a healthy one, the exhalations of the meadow 
developing a consumptive habit in the family blood, 
to which Theodore's mother brought some positive 

In the rear of the house was a monstrous elm which 
endangered the building, and was removed as a nui- 


sance ; that was a full-grown tree in the days of my 
grandfather's grandfather ; other huge oaks and elms 
once stood close by, but they had all perished before my 
birth, and only a white ash with a great round top stood 
at the northwest corner of the house. It was planted by 
my grandfather, and was the largest tree of the kind I 
remember to have seen in New England. 

On the hard land saxifrage and columbines grew on 
the sunny side of all the great rocks, blue violets and 
white were to be had everywhere, and anemones nodded 
their handsome heads on the south side of every wall 
where nature had her way. 

A score or two of flowers are named that grew 
in the dooryard garden and in the adjoining fields, 
many getting from some loving epithet an added 
grace. How well did he consider the lilies, how 
they grew, sometimes with forty-nine buds and 
blossoms on a single stalk. Through all this 
range of observation the child was father of the 
man, and yet it was always with the fragrance of 
remembered joy that flowers and fruits and fields 
were sweetest in his sermons and his prayers. His 
boyhood was his manhood's coolest spring of fancy 
and poetical expression. It is difficult to imagine 
how any natural surroundings could have yielded 
him more abundantly the right material for " emo- 
tion recollected in tranquillity." 

From the middle of May, when the introduced trees, 
the plum, peach, cherry, apple, and pear began to 
bloom, till the middle or end of October, the eye need 
not seek a landscape of humble, quiet New England 
beauty more attractive than this, and all winter long 


the white pines, which seemed so cool and attractive 
in July and August, had a warm, motherly look, and 
told of life still sleeping in them, around them, every- 

Upon his " Human Surroundings " the boy 
looked with an equally observant eye, and the 
man reverted to them with a livelier apprecia- 
tion of their essential worth. His mother was 
the daughter of a neighboring farmer, Benjamin 
Stearns, and Hannah Seger. When his father 
married her, he wore blue yarn stockings, and 
brought her home, set high on his farm-horse, to 
a house furnished with hard simplicity, the com- 
mon plates of wood, the larger dishes of pewter 
and coarse earthenware. Of linen there was a 
better show, because her father raised the flax and 
her brother prepared it for the loom, and she her- 
self spun it and made it into serviceable table- 
cloths and towels, white as the driven snow. 

The family into which Theodore was born was 
large enough to rather overfill the house, though 
in 1810 the oldest of ten children was already 
twenty-five, and several of them had gone away 
from home to make their start in life. It was a 
reading family, the father setting an example to 
the rest, and reading mainly solid books of his- 
tory and political economy and mental philosophy. 
Paley, anticipating Theodore, he did not like, say- 
ing that he " left us no conscience." Poetry he 
did not like, but read much of the best to see 
what there was in it. He read much of the cur- 


rent theology, disapproving stoutly of its more 
brutal elements. His liberal views outran those 
preached at the Centre — in Theodore's childhood 
solely Unitarian — excluding not only the trinity, 
atonement, and eternal hell, but the more striking 
miracles of either Testament. Here were germs 
which, lodged in Theodore's young mind, grew 
there apace. Clean-spoken, helpful, kindly, and 
straightforward, and credited with "all the man- 
ners of the neighborhood," one of the best New 
England virtues was apparently denied the father 
— thrift. He was, perhaps, a worse farmer for 
being a pretty good mechanic, and leaving the 
boys to work the farm while he puttered in the 
carpenter's shop ; such an one as that of Naza- 
reth, rude cabinet-making alternating there with 
the making and mending of farmers' implements. 
So Theodore had, like the young Jesus, the happy 
privilege of playing among sweet-smelling chips 
and shavings, and he made such advance in the 
business that there is (or was, not long ago) a 
shapely strong-built cradle testifying to his early 
skill. As for the workshop, there was not another 
in New England that had such music in its frame, 
as of a Stradivarius that has been played on by 
some master's hand. It was nothing less than 
the belfry of the village meeting-house, the same 
which, standing on the Green, like some famous 
campanile, had quivered with the peal of that 
most sacred bell which did its part in summoning 
the farmer-folk to unaccustomed work on the 19th 


of April, 1775. If the boy's ears were dull to 
catch the echoes lingering among the rafters where 
the bell had hung, the man's were well attuned to 
them in after years. 

So far as Theodore Parker's intellectual and 
moral gifts were a direct inheritance from his par- 
ents, the intellectual came more from his father 
than from his mother. "Her reading was con- 
fined mainly to the Bible, the hymn-book, and 
stories of New England captives among the In- 
dians," some of which were preserved in manu- 
script and never printed. She was industrious 
and neat, putting off each afternoon her blue 
check working -dress for a more comely gown. 
She was a member of "the church," that inner 
circle which Jonathan Edwards would have had 
made up of conscious saints, but which numbered 
among its " members " many tenderly distrustful 
souls. Hannah Parker was one of these. 

She was (wrote Theodore) eminently a religious 
woman. I have known few in whom the religious in- 
stincts were so active and profound, and who seemed to 
me to enjoy so completely the life of God in the soul 
of man. . . . She saw Him in the rainbow, and in the 
drops of rain which helped to compose it as they fell 
into the muddy ground, to come up grass and trees, and 
corn and flowers. She took a deep and still delight in 
silent prayer. . . . The more spiritual part of the Bible 
formed her favorite reading ; the dark theology of the 
times seems not to have stained her soul at all. She 
took great pains with the moral culture of her children, 
at least with mine. 


One example of her nice and delicate care in 
this regard brings to an end the too-brief autobio- 
graphical fragment. It has been paraphrased, or 
quoted, many times, but it is infinitely precious, 
and no account of Parker's childhood that omitted 
it would have even approximate completeness. 
Moreover, the story cannot be fitly told except in 
his own words : — 

When a little hoy in petticoats in my fourth year, 
one fine day in spring, my father led me by the hand 
to a distant part of the farm, but soon sent me home 
alone. On the way I had to pass a little " pond-hole " 
then spreading its waters wide ; a rhodora in full bloom 
— a rare flower in my neighborhood, and which grew 
only in that locality — attracted my attention and drew 
me to the spot. I saw a little spotted tortoise sunning 
himself in the shallow water at the root of the flaming 
shrub. I lifted the stick I had in my hand to strike the 
harmless reptile ; for, though I had never killed any 
creature, yet I had seen other boys out of sport destroy 
birds, squirrels, and the like, and I felt a disposition 
to follow their example. But all at once something 
checked my little arm, and a voice within me said, clear 
and loud, " It is wrong ! " I held my uplifted stick in 
wonder at the new emotion — the consciousness of an 
involuntary but inward check upon my actions — till 
the tortoise and the rhodora both vanished from my 
sight. I hastened home and told the tale to my mother, 
and asked what was it that told me it was wrong ? She 
wiped a tear from her eye with her apron, and taking 
me in her arms, said, " Some men call it conscience, but 
I prefer to call it the voice of God in the soul of man. 
If you listen and obey it, then it will speak clearer and 


clearer, and always guide you right ; but if you turn a 
deaf ear or disobey, then it will fade out little by little, 
and leave you all in the dark and without a guide. 
Your life depends on heeding this little voice." She 
went her way, careful and troubled about many things, 
but doubtless pondered them in her motherly heart ; 
while I went off to wonder and think it over in my 
poor childish way. But I am sure no event in my life 
has made so deep and lasting an impression on me. 

With such parentage and fostering, and with 
such a wholesome, sweet environment, the growing 
boy was very happy, and, until the great hunger 
for books and a liberal education came upon him, 
unconscious of any real lack. From the first he 
lived very near to Nature's heart. Sometimes he 
was permitted to run barefoot, in his little night- 
shirt, on the new-fallen snow. To see its great 
drifts melt away in spring was always a delight. 
When the last drift, on the north side of some 
wall or ledge, had disappeared and the ground was 
dry and beginning to be sweetly troubled with the 
roots of wind-flowers and violets, he had free range 
and made good use of it : — 

I used to sit or lie on the ground in a dry and shel- 
tered spot, and watch the great yellow clouds of April 
that rolled their huge masses over my head, filling my 
eye with their strange, fantastic, ever-changing forms 
and my mind with wonder at what they were, and how 
they came there. 

There was a rocky ledge behind the house, — 
an invaluable appurtenance, as many boys must 


know, — where, when he fell in love with study, 
he used to draw apart for close-companioned, in- 
articulate joy. From this coign of vantage he 
could see two lofty pines with which he estab- 
lished personal relations, devoting one of them to 
himself and another to a loved sister. For his 
sake a kindly farmer saved them from the axe 
and for some years after his death they kept his 
memory green. There are pleasant rumors of his 
going to Boston to sell the peaches grown in the 
home orchard, and wearing on his cheeks a rosier 
blush than theirs. Near by the pine-tree totems 
stood the school-house where he got the rudiments 
of an education which he would not have thought 
complete if he had lived till now. Like Michael 
Angelo he would have " carried his satchel still," 
until the long day's end. Disliking then, as later, 
beaten tracks, he went to school across-lots through 
the meadow and the brook, setting the stepping 
stones himself. For two years he attended the 
school summer and winter, but after 1818 in win- 
ter only. He was a good boy, but inclined to mis- 
chief, as when, having a pop-gun of phenomenal 
proportions, he fired a shot heard round the school- 
room, which, for the pop-gun, was the crack of 
doom. His schoolmates, as he grew older, liked 
him, but were shy of him because his sense of the 
ridiculous was already keen, and his powers of 
mimicry foreboded rare delights for those who 
had the freedom of his study in his best estate. 
Mr. Weiss writes of him as being rough in play 


and tumbling his playmates in a shaggy fashion, 
while, at the same time, he hated to see any " put 
upon " by the bullying sort. 

It was significant that his first " composition " 
was " The Starry Heavens," so impressive to his 
manhood were their greater and their lesser lights. 
In 1820 William H. White, afterward a Uni- 
tarian minister, taught the district school. He 
started Theodore in Latin and Greek, and the 
grown man was always grateful for this service, 
and often wrote to his old teacher and interested 
himself warmly in his daughter's education. When 
Mr. White went away, Theodore, sick abed, put 
his head under the bedclothes and cried, he was 
so sorry at the change. One of his teachers, the 
first according to a letter from Parker to him, 
presenting him with a copy of his De Wette's 
" Introduction to the Old Testament," was Dr. 
George R. Noyes, afterward a sound Hebrew 
scholar and, as professor in the Harvard Divin- 
ity School, beloved by many an awkward squad 
of students in that secluded nook. In 1855 Parker 
sent him a copy of his " Defence," which is now 
in my possession, and with it the letter that pre- 
sented it: "When I used to go to school to you 
in the little dirty old building at Lexington, I 
didn't dream of sending you a Defence against 
an Indictment of the Grand Jury for 'Misde- 
meanor.' But so it turns out." 

The boy's early schooling consisted of two double 
terms, summer and winter, and besides these nine 


winter terms of eleven weeks, and one term at the 
Lexington Academy in 1826. For the rest, until 
he entered the Divinity School, he was self-taught. 
There was a " Social Library " in Lexington con- 
taining a few hundred volumes, some of them not 
so bad. John Parker was a subscriber on his 
own account and Theodore caught on behind. He 
read translations of Homer and Plutarch before 
he was eight ; Bollin's Ancient History about the 
same time. This now appears hardly less ancient 
than the events recorded, but any book is a good 
book that encourages in a boy the reading habit. 
The facts will come in due time; the muddy 
stream will soon run itself clear. Other histories 
soon followed and all the poetry that he could lay 
his hands on, his first writing of verses dating 
from this time. A single reading of a poem from 
500 to 1000 lines in length was sufficient to im- 
press it on his memory. In the meeting-house he 
used to commit the hymns to memory while the 
minister was reading them. At ten he made a 
catalogue of all the vegetables, plants, trees, and 
shrubs that grew upon the farm, inventing names 
where he could not find the right one. Fortu- 
nately the small family stock of books included a 
folio copy of Evelyn's celebrated " Sylva." Meta- 
physics began to interest him before he was twelve, 
and astronomy. He was twelve years old when 
he saw the crescent form of Venus with his naked 
eye. He had never heard of such a thing, but got 
a larger astronomy from the schoolmaster and 
confirmed the fact. 


The first book bought with his own money was 
a Latin dictionary. This was in 1822. He got 
the money by picking huckleberries, which he car- 
ried to Boston and sold. It was the first of 13,000 
volumes, and always had an honored place among 
them in his library, as it now has in the Boston 
Public Library, to which he bequeathed his books. 

The boy's religious education proceeded at an 
equal pace with the intellectual. As the last child 
of the family his mother had more time for him 
than she had for the others in their quick succes- 
sion. The neighbors said that she was " spilin' 
that boy." In fact she was nourishing his heart 
with wholesome piety and endearing herself to him 
so much that every time in later years when he 
prayed to God as " Our Father and our Mother," 
as he often did, he added another flower to the 
wreath that twined her memory. His worst fault 
as a boy was a hasty temper which was not easily 
controlled. Those unclean spirits which infest the 
minds of many boys found no harborage in his. 
It being so in thought, it was inevitably so in 
word and act. The growing youth did not make 
good the promise of his early looks. He became 
awkward and bashful, too sensitive to praise or 
blame for his own peace of mind, — a lifelong 
trait. It should have made him more considerate 
of others than he sometimes was. His unfailing 
reverence for the character of Jesus began when 
he was a very little boy. There was the shaping 
of his mother's gentle hand. And very early, too, 


began his protest against "the popular theology/' 
as he generally designated the traditional theology 
of the New England churches. He tried hard to 
think himself as wicked as a stray Westminster 
Catechism seemed to make him out, but it was 
uphill work, and he soon gave it up. He knew 
that he was a good boy, trying to be a better 
one, and there was no place in his experience, 
from his childhood up, for any genuine " convic- 
tion of sin " as the underlying groundwork of his 
life, no place for a " conversion " of the kind de- 
manded by the sterner sects. All was healthy 
growth and normal evolution : first the blade, then 
the ear, then the full corn. But if he could not 
appropriate the conventional methods of salvation, 
it was not because he gave to them no trial. He 
wrote in his journal, 1839 : — 

I can hardly think without a shudder of the terrible 
effect the doctrine of eternal damnation had on me. 
How many, many hours have I wept with terror as I 
lay on my bed, till, between praying and weeping, sleep 
gave me repose. But before I was nine years old this 
fear went away, and I saw clearer light in the goodness 
of God. But for years, say from seven till ten, I said 
my prayers with much devotion, I think, and then con- 
tinued to repeat, "Lord, forgive my sins," till sleep 
came on me. 

. Some years later — we are not told exactly when 
— he had his first doubts about that future life of 
which in his maturity he had no shadow of mis- 
giving. He heard the minister preach about it 


and insist that except for the resurrection of Jesus 
from the dead, there was no argument for it of any 

Boy as I was, I saw the folly of that to prove a 
universal proposition, but, boy as I was, I could not 
reason the matter out and, in default of reasoning, 
prove my immortality ; so I felt constrained to doubt, 
almost to deny it. Some weeks passed over, weeks of 
torment ; at last spontaneous nature came to my help, 
and I settled the question, not intellectually and by 
philosophy, but sentimentally in the child's way, not the 
man's. It was not till years afterward that I found a 
philosophy that satisfied the intellectual demands and 
helped me to prove it to myself. 

When a mature man he read Miller's " Life 
of Jonathan Edwards " and wrote of it in his 
journal : — 

A most remarkable child, youth and man, mild, 
gentle, and most lovely. How such a person must have 
revolted, naturally, from the stern, hard doctrines of 
Calvinism ! How his heart must have bled before 
it could admit the dreadful doctrines, — total deprav- 
ity and eternal damnation and the like. Oh ! if they 
wrung his soul as they have wrung mine, it must 
have bled. 

Is the reference here to his early experience 
or to the sympathetic horrors of his later life? 
For the former it would seem too strong. What 
is certain is that his later boyhood and his youth 
were full of happiness, a good conscience and a 
warm religious sentiment contributing their parts 


to make them sweet and glad ; so much so that, 
generally, when he looked back, he had no memory 
for anything that was not bright and good. Preach- 
ing to the Progressive Friends at Longwood, Pa., 
in 1858, his subject " The Soul's Normal Delight 
in the Infinite God," he said : — 

I have swum in clear, sweet waters all my days; 
and if sometimes they were a little cold and the stream 
ran adverse and something rough, it was never too 
strong to be breasted and swum through. From the 
days of earliest boyhood, when I went stumbling through 
the grass " as merry as a May bee "up to the gray 
bearded man of this time, there is none that has not 
left me honey in the hive of memory that I now feed 
on for present delight. When I recall the years of 
boyhood, youth, early manhood, I am filled with a sense 
of sweetness and wonder that such little things can 
make a mortal so exceedingly rich. 

In another part of the same passage he traces 
the development of the religious sentiment in 
terms that are a clear reflection of his own experi- 
ence : — 

There is a Jacob's ladder for our young pilgrim, 
whereon he goes up from his earthly mother who man- 
ages the little room he sleeps in, to his dear Heavenly 
Mother, who never slumbers nor sleeps, who is never 
careful nor troubled about anything, but yet cares con- 
tinually for the great housekeeping of all the world, 
giving likewise to her beloved even in their sleep. In 
the child it is only the faint twilight, the beginning of 
religion which you take notice of, like the voice of the 
bluebird and the phcebe, coming early in March, but 


only as a prelude to that whole summer of joyous song 
which, when the air is delicate, will ere long gladden 
and beautify the procreant nest. 

Such were the early influences that went to 
shape the growing boy and make him as naturally 
the father of the man he came to be as his own 
simple and kindly parents were the progenitors of 
his body, mind, and heart. His natural environ- 
ment contributed to his happiness many homely, 
beautiful, and solemn things, which germinated in 
his mind's good soil and became in after years fair 
growths of fancy and imagination, giving a warmth 
and color to his speech, a reality to his words, 
which could not come from books ; the air of Lex- 
ington was full of haunting echoes of the great 
April day and his grandfather's manly part therein ; 
good books and teachers helped the beginnings 
of that culture and that intellectual acquirement 
which were to take on such liberal proportions as 
his life more fully orbed itself from year to year ; 
and, best of all, his father's intellectual engross- 
ment and sincerity and his mother's deep religious- 
ness gave clear direction to the movement of his 
mind, his conscience, and his spiritual life. 



History may not repeat itself, but personal 
experience does so often that one suspects a law 
of similar causes producing similar effects. When 
I read of Theodore Parker's going off one day, 
not telling whither, and returning late at night 
and going to his father's room and finding him 
abed, but still awake, and saying, " Father, I en- 
tered Harvard College to-day," I cannot but recall 
a like experience of my own youth, and wonder if 
boys generally seek the cover of the dark for such 
startling revelations of their hopes and plans. 
Moreover, my father greeted my announcement 
of two years' more preparatory study and three at 
Cambridge in words almost identical with those of 
John Parker : " Why, Theodore, you know I can- 
not support you there." Then Theodore explained 
that he would stay at home and keep up with his 
class, or do as he had already done when teaching 
at Waltham and elsewhere — pay a man to do his 
work upon the farm. He had been to Cambridge 
that day, and passed his examinations for the 
freshman class. It was a day he never could for- 
get. He often recurred to it in his journal and 


letters, always with tender, grateful thoughts ; 
those in his journal flowering into such prayers 
as this (August 23, 1850) : — 

Father, who hast been my help and my reliance 
hitherto, — in the dangerous period of passion, and my 
trial of poverty, — be with me now in the more danger- 
ous period of ambition. Help me to be one with Thee, 
obedient to Thy will in my heart and faithful to all the 
monitions of Thy guiding Spirit. If other twenty 
years pass by me, make me by so much a nobler, 
greater, better man. 

The Harvard scheme was carried out. He took 
all the studies, and passed all the examinations, 
but got no degree, because he had not resided in 
Cambridge, nor paid tuition fees. Afterward, Dr. 
Francis interceding, he was offered the Bachelor's 
degree on payment of four years' tuition fees. The 
price was more than he could pay, but the honor- 
ary degree of A. M. was given to him in 1840. 

Continuing his farm work in the summer sea- 
sons until 1831, he began district school teaching 
in the winter of 1827-28 in Quincy; the next 
winter found him at North Lexington, the next at 
Concord, utterly unconscious of what that town 
would one day mean for him, and the winter of 
1830-31 in Waltham. In these experiments he 
had the reputation of being over-strict and very ex- 
acting with his scholars. Here was the endeavor 
of a boy to maintain a man's authority, and the 
modesty which assumed that others had his gifts 
of memory and application. At North Lexing- 


ton he got $25 a month, so that after paying his 
board and the man working in his place, he still 
had something left for books, if second hand, no 
matter. During these years he was one of the 
Lexington militia ; was made lieutenant and clerk 
of the company, as such calling the familiar sur- 
names to which men answered in the spring of 
1775. The Lexington home life ended for him 
March 23, 1831, when he went to Boston as assist- 
ant in a private school. His father did not wish 
to take the $11 monthly for Theodore's substi- 
tute on the farm, but Theodore insisted that he 
must not be used better than his brothers had 
been before him, and he had his way. Getting 
$15 a month and his board, he had thus $4 left 
each month for luxuries, until, on the 24th of 
August, he reached the age of twenty-one. Writ- 
ing Dr. Howe in 1860, he tells what manner of 
youth he was when he went to Boston, never to 
return, except for flying visits, to the rude nest in 
which his powers received their earliest and best 
nourishment : — 

A raw boy, with clothes made by country tailors, 
coarse shoes, great hands, red lips, and blue eyes, I 
went to serve in a private school, where for fifteen dol- 
lars a month and my board I taught Latin, Greek, sub- 
sequently French (!), and mathematics, and all sorts of 
philosophy. ... I taught in the school six hours a day, 
and from May to September seven ; but I had always 
from ten to twelve hours a day for my own private 
studies out of school. . . . Judge if I did not work : it 
makes my flesh creep to think how I used to work, and 


how much I learned that year and the four next. . . . 
Oh, that I had known the art of life, or found some 
man to tell me how to live, to study, to take exercise, 
etc. But I found none, and so here I am. 

The self-conscious note in this is unmistakable. 
It appeared at every stage of his career. He was 
not one of Carlyle's great men who are unconscious 
of themselves any more than was Carlyle himself. 
But, if sometimes exaggerated and morbid, his 
self-consciousness was generally sweet and whole- 
some and robust. It never even tended to mean 
self-satisfaction; it always "spurred the sides of 
his intent." 

Equally plain, from much contemporary evi- 
dence, is the fact that he was already overwork- 
ing miserably, and nourishing those seeds of 
dejection and ill -health that were latent in his 
constitution. In his early years he was much less 
affable and companionable than he was further 
on. His year in Boston was a very lonely one, and 
it is clear that he was homesick and heartsick a 
good deal of the time. Brimstone was a specific 
in those days, and Parker took it in that kind dealt 
out by Dr. Lyman Beecher, who had come to Bos- 
ton to beard the Unitarian lion in its den, going to 
hear him preach for a year, and attending one of 
his " protracted meetings." He says : " I greatly 
respected the talents, the zeal, and the enterprise 
of that able man, who certainly taught me much ; 
but I came away with no confidence in his the- 
ology. The better I understood it, the more self- 


contradictory, unnatural, and hateful did it seem." 
It was, perhaps, well for him to have this first- 
hand knowledge of a system of which he was to 
be the critic further on. He was accused of not 
understanding it. It was because he understood 
it so well that he could make no terms with it, but 
struck at it with all his might. But how different 
that year would have been for him if he had gone 
to hear Dr. Channing preach, who was then just 
returned from Santa Cruz ! Here was the saddest 
waste of a great opportunity. Of Garrison and 
the " Liberator," just entering on their mighty 
work, he probably knew nothing then, or for some 
years to come. It was not strange that as late as 
1840 the "Liberator" was equally ignorant of him, 

printing his name " Parker of Eoxbury " in 

its account of the Groton Convention of that year. 
During the Boston year he read all of Homer 
and much of Xenophon, Demosthenes, and iEschy- 
lus, adding the study of German to that of French, 
and acquiring, then or later, the ability to write 
as well as read these languages ; doing much at 
the same time in mathematics and philosophy. 
He, nevertheless, found time to write a lecture on 
Poland for the Lexington Lyceum ; but with what 
approval from the local censors of his native town- 
ship we are not informed. More important to 
him was this first expression of those wide politi- 
cal sympathies which characterized his maturity. 
Fortunately, at the year's end he was advised to 
open a private school in Watertown, a few miles 


from Boston, Cambridge an adjoining town. He 
made the venture, which at first did not seem en- 
couraging. He began with two pupils, one of 
them taken for nothing. But with the Broads, 
on the road to Newton Corner, he had a homelike 
boarding-place, upon the death of Nathaniel Broad, 
the husband, making himself very useful to the 
wife, a kind-hearted, motherly woman. The school- 
room was in the second story of an old bakery, 
and Theodore utilized his knowledge of carpentry 
in making benches, desks, a wainscot, and other 
necessary improvements. He soon had a full 
school ; thirty-five in a year's time, and later fifty- 
four. Some who could not afford to pay any- 
thing came for thanks ; the well-to-do paid four or 
five dollars a term, according to the grade. One 
colored girl was admitted with serene unconscious- 
ness, and then dismissed because some of the white 
parents objected. That was Theodore's first en- 
gagement with the race problem, and it was for 
him a losing battle. He made large atonement 
in due time, but never could forgive himself that 
early cruelty, or ever think of it without self-con- 

He put much heart and conscience into his 
teaching, and made it something very real both to 
himself and to his scholars. If he expected much 
of them, he could inspire them to realize his ex- 
pectations. He won their confidence ; their love. 
Later, when he was on the Roxbury school com- 
mittee, he insisted, or suggested, that the teachers 


should not inflict corporal punishment "without 
some ostensible reason." He thought it too much 
to demand the real reason, "because it might be 
that the boy had n't a pretty sister." That was a 
hint taken from his own experience. In Water- 
town, Frank (surname not given) was kept after 
school to receive punishment, but he looked so 
much like his sister Harriet, a lovely girl with 
whom Theodore used to read and take long walks, 
that he kissed the little reprobate and let him go. 
He lived a much more natural and pleasant life 
in Watertown than he had lived in Boston, seeing 
something of people and making friends. He had 
relations in the town who had urged his coming, 
and were kind to him in simple farmer fashion 
that kept the traditions of his boyhood fresh and 
sweet. It was a notable circumstance that he 
brought a letter from his Lexington pastor to 
Rev. Convers Francis, a brother of Lydia Maria 
Child, abounding in her kindly sympathies, but 
without her moral courage. He was made Dr. 
Francis in 1837, and in 1842 Parkman Professor 
in the Harvard Divinity School, where I found 
him in 1861 and lost him in 1863. 

Dead he lay among his books, 
The peace of God was in his looks ; 

and John Weiss, who succeeded him in the Water- 
town pastorate, spoke to us words as cheerful as 
the April day. The books were many even in 
1832, when Parker made his acquaintance, an ac- 
quaintance that was to ripen into one of the warm- 


est friendships of his life. He was one of the early 
German scholars, and his library was strong in 
German books. He could not always remember 
the titles in my day, but he had an alter ego who 
seldom failed him, when he said to her — his 
daughter — " Abby, what is the book I am try- 
ing to think of ? " From this good man Parker 
got ample sympathy with his studious ways and 
furtherance in his pursuit of knowledge. His 
preaching, too, was a real help. It went deeper 
than any the boy had yet heard into the great 
problems of religion. It gave him his first initia- 
tion into the Transcendental school of thought. 
Best of all it was humane, and so at once an 
incentive to the young man whose heart was 
already set upon the ministry, and a prophecy of 
what his own preaching was to be, written in 
larger character. 

It was an incident of his acquaintance with Mr. 
Francis that he was soon made superintendent of 
the Sunday-school. It was no easy matter for 
the awkward, bashful youth to bear his " blushing 
honors." There are rumors of the extreme pro- 
vincialism of his Sunday clothes, and others of 
that wholesome piety which bound all his years 
together in one fragrant sheaf. Here, as ever, 
what he did he did with all his might, writing a 
brief History of the Jews for his Bible-class, 
which might be cited as a witness of the sound- 
ness of his Unitarian orthodoxy before he had 
begun to think in any vigorous fashion. Miss 


Lydia D. Cabot was one of the teachers in the 
Sunday-school, and moreover she was boarding 
under the same roof with Theodore, at Mrs. 
Broad's ; and thus propinquity brought things to 
pass which under different circumstances might 
have been long delayed. Miss Cabot was the 
only daughter of John Cabot, of Newton, and had 
lived much with an aunt in Boston. Of her early 
life I have no details, but her future at least was 
secure when she and Theodore Parker were thus 
thrown together. Once a cordial relation had 
been established, the capabilities of Watertown 
were much enlarged, its scenery was appreciated 
as it had not been before, and the young man's 
library was correspondingly increased. Henceforth 
there were 

books in the running brooks, 
Sermons in stones, and good in everything. 

The business so auspiciously begun reached its 
preliminary climax in October, 1833, when we find 
Theodore walking over to Lexington one Sunday 
afternoon to tell his father all about it. This time 
he caught him in the garden, just returned from 
church, and confided to him what Miss Cabot 
called "the fatal affair." "Indeed!" said the 
father, " indeed ! " — a response which did n't make 
it easier for Theodore to go on. But he had been 
rehearsing Lydia's good qualities all the way over 
and he now recited them with sufficient accuracy 
and amplitude. " Yes, yes ! " replied the father ; 
"I should be pleased with any one you would 


select ; but, Theodore, you must be a good man and 
a good husband, which is a great undertaking." 
" I promised all good fidelity," writes Theodore to 
Lydia, " and may Heaven see it kept." Which 
Heaven did. 

The engagement thus made had the good for- 
tune to be nursed by periods of absence alternating 
with joyous meetings. Theodore's letters tell of 
his hard studies and confess his late, or rather 
early hours, for sometimes Mrs. Broad's big lamp 
held out till two o'clock and left the student's hun- 
ger unappeased. On Lydia's side there are expos- 
tulations with him for these naughty ways. Let 
us trust that, as time went on, there were many 
foolish little nothings to counterbalance the fine 
sentiments, and didactic wisdom, and experiments 
in preaching, in which Theodore's letters abound. 
But with these things there are sweet and homely 
reminiscences of his earlier days, his mother's good- 
night kisses, and such other "narrow things of 
home " as his fond heart was never able to forget. 

While teaching at Watertown he anticipated to 
some extent his Divinity School studies, going over 
to Cambridge to take lessons in Hebrew, and after- 
ward to a Mr. Seixas, living in Charlestown, and 
to the Hebrew manner born. His teaching ended 
with the second year in April, 1834, when he 
entered the Divinity School at Cambridge for the 
last term of the junior year. He had saved 
enough money for the new venture, which required 
only $200 a year for expenses of all kinds, and he 


had hopes of earning something by private teach- 
ing and writing — hopes only partially realized. 
He had won the love of his scholars, and on the 
last day of the school they surprised him with a 
silver cup, which had such an effect upon him that 
he vanished suddenly into the entry and came 
back with tell-tale eyes. In connection with his 
teaching and Hebrew and love-making he had 
found time at Watertown to read Cicero, Tacitus, 
Herodotus, Thucydides, Pindar, Theocritus, Bion, 
Moschus, JEschylus ; doing much careful transla- 
tion. Here, too, he fell in with Cousin and Jouf- 
froy and Coleridge, and began to lay the founda- 
tions of a transcendental system of philosophy. 

For a year or two in Cambridge his room was 
No. 29 Divinity Hall. In the same room for two 
years ('62-64), I enjoyed the inspiration of his 
" affable familiar ghost." It was the pleasantest 
room in the building, the front corner room to- 
wards the college buildings and on the upper floor. 
A better study he could not desire. In his time 
the bed in the snug alcove could not have been so 
hammock-like as it was in my time, but the bed 
for him was a necessary evil, only resorted to when 
sleep was overpowering or when eyesight failed. 
His attempts to board himself do not appear to 
me so dreadful as to Mr. Weiss, because I made 
such and enjoyed them for two years and a half 
out of my three years' course with no ill effects and 
a saving of enough money to buy two hundred books. 
In Parker's time it was all open field where the 


great Agassiz Museum now affronts the modesty 
of theology with the pride of science. The wonder 
is that Parker did not, like Horatio Stebbins 
further on, economize the ground for the profitable 
raising of potatoes. 1 His classmates were Samuel 
P. Andrews, Richard T. Austin, John S. D wight, 
of musical fame, George E. Ellis, historian and 
antiquarian, Oliver C. Everett, Abiel A. Liver- 
more, sometime President of the Meadville Theolo- 
gical School, and William Silsbee, a man of finest 
grain in whom Parker found one of his dearest 
friends. Austin was named Seiders in his Divinity 
School days, but marrying Susan Austin took her 
name. He died in 1847, and his wife's loyalty to 
his memory showed itself in many years of kind- 
ness to Unitarian ministers both young and old, a 
kindness of which I enjoyed a liberal share. Her 
house, two centuries old and very quaint, on the 
day of Visitation used to shine with happy faces, 
while inextinguishable laughter made the old tim- 
bers thrill as with their vital sap. 

In the senior class when Parker entered the 
school were Cyrus A. Bartol, Charles T. Brooks 
the German translator, Edgar Buckingham, one of 
the rarest of the saints, Christopher Cranch, who 
wrote many good poems and one of large repute, 

1 Just before Parker's time there had been a Horticultural So- 
ciety in the School. One of its functions was the cultivation of 
this field in rival plots allotted to the Divinity Students. I have 
found its records interesting-, especially Cranch's description of a 
" self-weeding apparatus," designed to make less arduous the 
labors of " the man with a hoe." 


" Thought is deeper than all speech ; " John Park- 
man of good anti-slavery fame, and Samuel Osgood, 
a man whose scholarship was sicklied over with the 
pale cast of his ecclesiastical proclivities. In the 
middle class the only names that have survived 
were those of John H. Morison, a faithful pastor 
and careful writer, and Henry T. Tuckerman, whose 
literary reputation, once considerable, time has 
already dimmed. In the class following Parker's 
were Henry W. Bellows, the eloquent preacher and 
inspiring Unitarian leader, organizer of the United 
States Sanitary Commission, and Edmund H. Sears, 
a poetic mystic, who, when rooming in No. 30 Divin- 
ity Hall, wrote his far-sounding hymn, " Calm on 
the listening ear of night." 

Thus it appears that, though the school was 
numerically weak, it contained abundant material 
for friendship and mutual incitement to good 
works. Parker had been heard of in advance as a 
hard student and voracious reader, and possibly 
was somewhat isolated by his intense preoccupa- 
tion with his books. But as yet everything was 
chaotic in his mind : the spirit of organized know- 
ledge had not begun to move upon the face of the 
waters. His teachers were Professor John Gr. 
Palfrey, the coming of whose anti-slavery fame had 
not yet begun to shine, even far off, nor his fortu- 
nate mention in the " Biglow Papers " (" Wut ! 
voted agin 'im ! ") ; Henry Ware, Jr., whose " Op- 
pression shall not always reign " did duty as an 
anti-slavery hymn in all the Unitarian churches 


after 1843, when it was written as with the ebb- 
ing life-blood of the writer's heart; and Andrews 
Norton, whose large proportions as a scholar have 
been too much obscured, was, though withdrawn, a 
potent influence still. It fell to Professor Ware to 
criticise Theodore's experimental sermons, and he 
did so with something of that severity of which 
the saints have frequently enjoyed a disproportion- 
ate share. Here was something for tears in the 
little alcove where the soft-hearted boy got his 
precarious sleep. Evidently he was taking in too 
fast to give out anything well shaped. Like the 
apostle, he preached not himself as yet, but with 
a difference : he preached the books which he was 
reading in great heaps. He was better in debate, 
though sometimes " disrespectful of dignities," as 
when he cited "old Paul" as an authority and 
had to be advised by Professor Ware of the im- 
propriety of such homely speech. In private dis- 
cussion he waxed very warm sometimes, and when 
the question was of Philip Van Artevelde's con- 
duct in beheading certain political enemies, Theo- 
dore lost his own head and turned his friend out 
of the room because he disapproved of Artevelde's 
course. At other times he was as full of fun as 
if he were getting his full share of sleep and 
exercise. Dwight and Cranch were, on one occa- 
sion, practicing with musical instruments in their 
room to the detriment of Parker's " quiet and still 
air of delightful studies." Sudden an awful dis- 
cord smote the air. Parker had gone down into 


the cellar and brought up the wood-horse, wood, 
and saw, and was sawing away with a right good- 
will to the utter destruction of their concord of 
sweet sounds. 

Dr. Bartol recalls his exuberant life, his rest- 
less ambition to excel, " and an honesty that knew 
not how to lie ; " his ruddy face and firm and 
eager grasp ; a manner nothing if not natural ; his 
" smile, frank as spring and sweet as summer ; " 
also his ingenuous modesty and his ingenious ar- 
guments, every one of them with a corresponding 
knot tied in his handkerchief to help him keep the 
count. Another friend has told me of his glowing 
face and rapid stride and tossing mane of hair as 
he came back from Watertown with an armful of 
books borrowed from Mr. Francis, the libraries of 
the Divinity School and College not being suffi- 
cient to meet all his wants, and, possibly, a little 
slow in getting those German novelties which Pro- 
fessor Norton disesteemed as much as Mr. Francis 
cared for them. 

In a letter written about three months after his 
entering the school, there is, perhaps, no malice in 
the item : " Prayers are performed [sic] at morn- 
ing of every day by Professor Palfrey and at even- 
ing by one of the senior class." Such prayers were 
certainly less objectionable than those demanded 
in connection with the experimental preaching in 
the little chapel of the Hall. Later a student, 
more sincere than suave, after going through the 
prescribed order, besought the divine blessing on 


" these miserable gymnastics." Besides the regu- 
lar routine work of the school there was a " Phil- 
anthropic Society" which met once a fortnight, 
and discussed " some interesting subject, such as 
* Infidelity,' « Temperance,' i The License Laws.' " 
Could we have a full report of Parker's contribu- 
tion to the discussion of Infidelity it would, prob- 
ably, be amusing in the light of subsequent events. 
A fine lad came to him to recite Greek every 
morning, and a young gentleman had set out to 
study German with him, but after a few lessons 
had vanished into thin air. Before the end of his 
first term he was at work for Jared Sparks, trans- 
lating Lafayette's letters, and the work lasted 
through his whole vacation. With such helps 
and an annual benefice of " $ 110 or $150," the 
small library which he had taken away from home 
when he went to Boston was sure to grow apace. 

At the very outset of his theological course he 
gives an outline of his opinions, responding it would 
seem to some anxiety on the part of his nephew 
Columbus Greene. What Columbus discovered 
was as follows : — 

I believe in the Bible. ... I believe there is one 
God, who has existed from all eternity, with whom the 
past, present, and future are alike present ; that he is 
almighty, good, and merciful, will reward the good and 
punish the wicked, both in this life and the next. This 
punishment may he eternal ; of course, I believe that 
neither the rewards nor punishments of a future state are 
corporal. Bodily pleasures soon satiate, and may God 


preserve us from a worse punishment than one's own 

I believe the books of the Old and New Testament to 
have been written by men inspired by God, for certain 
purposes, but I do not think of them as inspired at all 
times. I believe that Christ was the Son of God, con- 
ceived and born in a miraculous manner, that he came 
to preach a better religion by which man may be saved. 

This religion, as I think, allows men the very high- 
est happiness in this life, and promises eternal felicity 
in another world. I do not think our sins will be for- 
given because Christ died. I cannot conceive why they 
should be, although many good and great men have 
thought so. I believe God knows all that we shall do, 
but does not cause us to do anything. 

Here is the conventional note. It may not have 
been up to the nephew's orthodox standard, but for 
a neat and comfortable statement of the conserva- 
tive Unitarianism of the time one might go farther 
without faring better. It was not long, however, 
before the coming man began to cast his shadow, — 
if I should not say " his light," — upon the stu- 
dent's journal and his letters to inquiring friends. 
He fell out with the early Fathers in the course of 
1835. Jerome's faculties were moderate. He was 
not a good scholar. " He tasted theology rather 
than exhausted it " — a common fault ; " he wrote 
his works in great haste." St. Augustine fares 
worse. He, "we all know, introduced more error 
into the Church than any other man. Many of his 
doctrines fly in the face both of reason and virtue, 
to extinguish the eyes of the one and stifle the 


breath of the other." As for Tertullian, "He 
thought faith which contradicted reason most ac- 
ceptable to God." He thought the soul material 
and sky-blue. Finally he is summed up as " one 
of the worst curses to the human race that has 
occurred since the Flood." 

From doubts about the Fathers to some that 
touched Old Testament matters was a distance 
covered in due time. In November, 1835, he fin- 
ished reading De Wette's " Commentary on the 
Psalms," and wrote, " He treats the Messianic in- 
terpretation of the Psalms as a mere chimera ; 
which it is in my humble opinion." But he was 
very slow in arriving at any serious rupture with 
his inherited beliefs. His supernaturalism was 
well intrenched : — 

I do not doubt that Jesus was a man " sent from God " 
and endowed with power from on high ; that he taught 
the truth and worked miracles : but that he was the 
subject of inspired prophecy I very much doubt. 

Here was an outpost gone. For a time, it being 
evident to him that Jesus regarded himself as an 
object of prophetical anticipation, he took refuge 
in that miserable subterfuge of " accommodation " 
which lagged superfluous on the stage in my Divin- 
ity School days. This subterfuge represented Jesus 
as not believing in the prophecies of his life and 
death, but as accommodating himself to the super- 
stitions of his countrymen — a scheme which saved 
his intellect at the cost of his morality. 


On the eve of Parker's graduation Dr. Dewey 
preached the Dudleian Lecture. It found Par- 
ker's confidence in miracles still unshaken, but lent 
it a few needless buttresses : " He removed the 
presumption against them. The objections were 
not only met but overturned." But that he thought 
the miracles " the least interesting part of the Evi- 
dences " was a foregleam of his " Transient and 
Permanent in Christianity," which had then five 
years to tarry in the preexistent heavens. More- 
over he had discovered that several and more reli- 
gions had their virgin births, and a doubt concern- 
ing that of Jesus painfully intrudes. He consoles 
himself with the reflection that such things do not 
affect the spiritual grandeur of Jesus, which is the 
chief concern. 

In 1831 Eev. Ezra Stiles Gannett had launched 
a tiny magazine, " The Scriptural Interpreter." It 
was intended for family instruction and served its 
end in a careful and extremely modest way. Mr. 
Gannett falling sick, it was committed to the care 
of Parker and his classmates Ellis and Silsbee. 
Its brief existence ended with the year 1836, but 
during their charge they did work for it that 
should have secured for it a longer lease of life, 
themselves writing the larger and best part of each 
number. There was no daring novelty, but a cau- 
tious tendency to accept some of the later results 
of German criticism of the Old Testament. Ques- 
tions of Messianic prophecy and the Pentateuch's 
authorship were touched with faint illumination, 


the candles lighted at Eichhorn's and De Wette's 
cheerful lamps and at that modest one which Astruc, 
the French physician, trimmed in 1753 and which 
has thrown its beams so far into our own time. 
His was the first discovery of two documents in the 
Pentateuch so loosely blended as to disclose their 
secret to the first observant eye. In 1834, Dr. 
George R. Noyes, who in 1840 became a professor 
in the Divinity School, published an article on 
the Messianic prophecies, taking frank issue with 
Hengstenberg's opinion that the Old Testament 
phrases corresponded to New Testament facts. 
" It is difficult," he said, " to point out any predic- 
tions which have been fulfilled in Jesus." Here 
was of course an indirect impeachment of the New 
Testament also, the edge of which Parker, as we 
have seen, blunted by the critical artifice called 
"accommodation." Attorney - General James T. 
Austin demanded Dr. Noyes's public prosecution, 
and proceedings to that effect were instituted, but 
nipped by an untimely frost of cold New England 
common sense. The " Scriptural Interpreter " 
followed Dr. Noyes's lead with careful steps. As 
for the different documents in the Pentateuch, 
might not Moses have used them and fused them ? 
The linguistic argument against the authorship of 
Moses, Parker rejected as insignificant, and, quot- 
ing Delany as believing in the universality of the 
Deluge, he adds, " as who does not ? " When he 
is apologizing for the massacres of the Canaanites, 
we seem to have a modern Jingo come to trouble 


us before his time. "It must be remembered, the 
nations to be extirpated were exceedingly vicious 
and corrupt ; and, if suffered to remain, would 
doubtless have led away the Jews from their 
better faith." The " Interpreter " was a very 
"bashful earthquake," and yet it affected some 
people's nerves in the habitual seismic manner. 
One of them, suffering from the shock of a doubt 
as to Isaiah 52d which the " Interpreter " has 
suggested, demands : — 

What could possess you ? What is the object of the 
theologians at Cambridge ? Are they determined to 
break down the prophecies and make our blessed Sav- 
iour and his Apostles impostors and liars ? . . . Where 
is it all to end ? . . . Pause, I beseech you, before it 
is too late. I am a well wisher to your work. I have 
always been a subscriber. But another such blow and 
I must quit all I value ; my religious faith above all 
things else. I cannot part with it. To escape shipwreck 
I must jump overboard before the last plank is taken 
away. And not I alone. Hundreds must do the same. 
. . . Mr. Noyes strikes a blow and alarms a sect. Mr. 
Peabody * recovers the ground for a moment, by hold- 
ing on to a few passages. The " Interpreter " follows 
to destroy one of the most essential of these few. The 
end cannot be far off. 

The mixed metaphors in this letter betray a 
reeling brain. The writer was a nervous wreck. 
What would he have been could he have had an 
authentic vision of the state of Old Testament 

1 Andrew P. Peabody, who had graduated from the Divinity 
School in 1832. 


criticism in the year 1900, when the little finger 
of the orthodox critic is thicker than the thigh of 
the most radical Unitarian in 1836 as concerns the 
structure of the Pentateuch and Messianic pro- 
phecy ? Touching New Testament matters, — 
" Alleged Mistakes of the Apostles," — we find 
Parker demurring at conclusions which a few years 
later Dr. Noyes was urging on the Divinity School 
students in a frank and fearless manner. If Paul 
was mistaken, said Parker, about the coming 
world-catastrophe, his teachings in general must 
have been discredited. He did better with the 
Laws of Moses, writing an analysis of them that 
showed careful study. Here and there, it shows 
how carefully he was " inching along " from his 
earlier to his later views. He is disposed to re- 
lieve Jehovah from the burden of the " sanguinary 
laws," first shifting them on to Moses's back and 
then to his environment. Not without much well- 
meant advice and warning did he, even so gradu- 
ally, leave the snug harbor of traditional opinion 
for the wide and open sea. Mr. Andrews Norton 
assured him privately that all the German schol- 
ars were " raw " and " not accurate ; " that they 
were " naturally unfitted for metaphysics, and their 
language still more so." Schleiermacher was no 
better than Spinoza, and "gave up all that ren- 
ders Christianity valuable." The next day he was 
again hit hard. A Boston Doctor of Divinity was 
sorry to see his article in the "Interpreter" on 
Isaiah's " Servant of God." 


The Cambridge years were very studious years 
for Parker over and above the exigencies of the 
regular course. To languages before studied he 
added Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Icelandic, Chal- 
daic, Persian, Coptic, Arabic, and made attempts 
upon some others, Swedish, Danish, and modern 
Greek. Mr. Weiss, who tells us that "he always 
seemed to have a language under glass," says 
that his habit was to first master the structure 
and derivation of a language and, afterward, its 
vocabulary. When he made mistakes, as he some- 
times did later in life, they were " oftener in the 
meaning of words than in the idiom and struc- 
ture." One of the professors is said to have con- 
sulted him on nice points of Hebrew and Syriac, 
and it is an established fact that when Dr. Palfrey 
went to New Orleans for a visit in 1836 he handed 
over to Parker the junior class in Hebrew. 

Meantime the reading of German authors and 
scholars, against whom Professor Norton had faith- 
fully warned him, grew apace and took on large 
proportions. Paulus and his naturalism got careful 
attention, and the works of Eichhorn and De Wette. 
He wrote out many elaborate translations, among 
them (completing it in West Roxbury) the whole 
of Amnion's " Formation of Christianity," one of 
the plausible reconciliations of things irreconcilable 
that have long since sunk into deserved oblivion. 
But there were lighter tasks. He did not deceive 
himself with the self -flattery that he was a poet 
— he lamented his lack of the poet's " dangerous 


gift ; " but he could not refrain from writing verses, 
some of which, earlier and later, were pretty bad ; 
others much better, those especially which had a 
religious inspiration. One set of them, having the 
form of a Shakespearean sonnet, was written in 
December, 1836, and expresses, though not so well 
as another in the same form and which is better 
known, that reverence for the character of Jesus 
which was continuous throughout his life : — 

Jesus, there is no dearer name than thine, 

Which time has blazoned on his mighty scroll ; 
No wreaths nor garlands ever did entwine 

So fair a temple of so vast a soul. 
There every virtue set his triumph seal ; 

Wisdom conjoined with strength and radiant grace, 
In a sweet copy Heaven to reveal, 

And stamp perfection on a mortal face ; 
Once on the earth wert Thou, before men's eyes, 

That did not half thy beauteous brightness see ; 
E'en as the emmet does not read the skies, 

Nor our weak orbs look through immensity. 
Once on the earth wert Thou, a living shrine, 
Where dwelt the good, the lovely, the divine. 1 

In the spring of 1836 he took a pleasure trip 
as far as Washington, and in the Senate happened 
on the " Bill for Preventing the Circulation of In- 
cendiary Matters " through the mails. In Parker's 
letter to Miss Cabot there is no resentment of Cal- 
houn's opinions prophetic of the coming man ; only 
a genial characterization. He saw Van Buren, 
" the little magician," gliding about and clapping 

1 This sonnet is quite different in Weiss's and Frothingham's 
versions. I follow Weiss's, which is evidently a later and certainly 
a better form. 


men on the shoulders, and Clay, tall and homely, 
walking about in a dignified manner. Back again 
in Cambridge and hard at work on the " History 
of Gnosticism," the subject of his graduation essay, 
and fighting the blue devils which now, as before in 
Boston, and later, from time to time, beset his jaded 
mind, he assures his Lydia that he does not specu- 
late on their cause. " It is enough to hear them 
without going about to analyze the nature of the 
complaint." How thorough he made his study of 
Gnosticism we can judge from the articles on this 
subject which he published in the " Interpreter." 
May 8, 1836, he preaches for the last time in the 
Hall Chapel. " Hereafter I hope to preach to real 
live men and women." July 4, he writes : — 

Last night I preached publicly in Mr. Newell's church. 
This is the first time in my life that I have preached to 
a real live audience. I felt much embarrassed ; though 
perhaps it did not show forth. Lydia, my own Lydia, 
and her aunt, came over with me. I was less pleased 
with myself than they were with me. 

The prayer which he wrote that evening in his 
journal was a deep and tender one for strength 
and wisdom to discharge the duties of the sacred 
office on which he was about to enter. " Visita- 
tion Day " came a little later in the month, " a day 
of trembling," as he wrote, for the little company 
of graduates, each, no doubt, " hiding an awkward 
delivery " in a gown borrowed for the occasion 
from some clergyman in the vicinity. My own 


class, in 1864, was the first to break this record. 
The exercises " went off well." He wrote : — 

God has prospered me in my studies and I am now- 
ready to go forth, but not without dread and fear. 
What an immense change has taken place in my opin- 
ions and feelings upon all the main points of inquiry 
since I entered this place. 

Such an expression gives us at once the measure 
of his original conservatism and of the remaining 
part — a good part of the whole, but opening slowly 
to the light. The next Sunday he preached for Mr. 
Francis in Watertown ; then he and Lydia had a 
fortnight together free from all care ; and then the 
sorrows of an itinerant candidate began. 



Nearing his twenty-sixth birthday in 1836 Theo- 
dore Parker was, at his entrance on the ministry, 
older than the majority of those who enter this 
profession, but hardly more mature except in 
scholarship. From the start his preaching mani- 
fested qualities that were a surprise to those who 
knew the habits of his mind and anticipated for 
him a scholarly career, with a professor's chair in 
Hebrew or some other language as its happy goal. 
The surprise was shared by those who invited him 
to preach in their churches, not knowing what 
manner of spirit he was of. The fame that every- 
where preceded him was that of a young man of 
remarkable intellectual attainments, versed in many 
languages and a devourer of many books. Meet- 
ing him face to face and hearing such sermons as 
he had to preach, they found him human to a de- 
gree their candidates and settled preachers had not 
often reached. It is true that in his proverbial 
barrel, which at this period was but a little keg, 
there were sermons that smelt of the lamp ; and 
it is true that he was grieved because these did 
not make the impression which he thought they 


ought to make, and that others were preferred 
whose smell was of the wholesome earth. But in 
general his liberation from the cloister into the 
larger air beyond its narrow bounds, the purer air 
unspoiled by musty books, was a signal for the 
rapid development of traits that were to be much 
more characteristic of his maturity than his schol- 
arly acquisition and to go far to make him one of 
the most real and effective preachers of his own or 
any time. The sweet humanity which his bookish- 
ness had for a time somewhat obscured now forced 
its way through that, like spring flowers breaking 
through the March and April sods, to sweeten the 
inclement air. Especially in his letters and his 
journals do we find many intimations of that 
homely vigor which the farm life of Lexington had 
nourished in his spiritual frame, and of that ten- 
der piety which he had learned "at that best 
academe, a mother's knee." 

The favorable impression made by his early 
preaching was qualified to some extent by rumors 
of his liberal theology. It did not take many such 
rumors in those times to give a candidate a bad 
name and keep him in suspense, while others who 
were above suspicion, or possibly below it, soon 
found a place. Here and there, no doubt, it was 
already whispered that he was a Transcendentalist ; 
worse omen because the meaning of the label tran- 
scended the average intelligence. It was known, 
however, that Mr. Emerson was one, and that he 
had resigned his charge in Boston because he could 


not conscientiously administer the Lord's Supper. 
The Unitarian parishes of 1836 would fain avoid 
the reefs and shoals which had been buoyed for 
them so carefully by that notorious event. Per- 
haps, then, it was not strange that Theodore re- 
mained upon the anxious seat of candidature nearly 
a whole year. Much stranger was the fact that in 
the way of overtures from different churches there 
was finally an embarrassment of riches. Waltham 
and Concord and Leominster and West Roxbury 
invited him to remain, and Barnstable, the scene of 
his first venture, would have joined the suitors had 
the young preacher given the least encouragement. 
But he was not one of those candidates to whom a 
string of calls is a proud trophy, like a string of 
scalps hung from an Indian's belt. He was sin- 
cerely anxious to make no mistake at the outset 
and to obey the call that seemed most consonant 
with his abilities and with the likelihood of his 
making a good use of them. 

In August, following his graduation in July, 
he went to Barnstable on the southeast coast of 
Massachusetts in the good schooner Sappho, and 
continued preaching there a month. It was a busy 
month for him : two sermons every Sunday and, on 
one, two funerals beside. There was much calling 
on the people, who at first seemed offish but after- 
ward kindly and intelligent. He botanizes, and 
studies the local mineralogy, and finds " a sort of 
mental crystallization going on within him which 
brings order out of chaos." He had put a dozen 


solid books in Ms small trunk and a good stock of 
sermon-paper, but books and paper both gave out : 
" The air of the place braces my whole soul ; I 
could devour a whole library in a week." He 
goes over to Eastham to a Methodist camp meet- 
ing and walks back — thirty miles. August 11th 
he finished a sermon and 

began to translate De Wette's " Einleitung in das Alte 
Testament." I cannot tell what will be the result of 
this. I shall leave that for another time to determine. 
Meanwhile I will go on translating it quietly, as I wish, 
without interrupting important studies. 

This translation, with his additions, notes, and 
comments, proved to be the most important study 
of his life, his opus magnum. He planned greater 
things, but they were pushed aside by his engross- 
ment in the anti-slavery conflict. He finished the 
translation, in nine months and as many days, May 
20, 1837, but then the hardest part remained to 
be done — that of revision, annotation, and disser- 

September and October, following the Barnsta- 
ble trial, find him at Northfield and Greenfield on 
the Connecticut River, delighting in the scenery 
and also in Emerson's " Nature," which had just 
appeared. It is too idealistic for his fancy, but 
overflows with beauty and truth : " Blessed is the 
man who stoops and tastes of them ! " If many 
of his days at Northfield were like one that is re- 
ported, Lydia had good reason to " hang the leaden 


collar of ' Be careful and not do too much ' about 
his neck," and let him object if he would. Rising 
at seven, before the midday meal he read the 
books of Esther, Nehemiah, Solomon's Song, first 
twelve chapters of Isaiah ; wrote part of a sermon ; 
finished one hundred and fifty pages of Allan's 
" Life of Scott " and two of Herder's " Briefe." 
After dinner read in a desultory manner ; walked 
two or three miles ; found a queer plant ; gathered 
chestnuts ; geologized a little ; went to ride with 
Dr. Hall ; took tea ; Mr. N. called and " stayed two 
hours at least." The sense of being defrauded of 
more reading time by the final incident is unmis- 

In November he returns to Barnstable and while 
there hears of his father's death. The good man 
had lived seventy-five years. Theodore had hoped 
they might be lengthened out, but he rejoices that 
they were so many and so full of traits and inci- 
dents that he can remember gratefully. He did 
not deceive himself : the father's memory was dur- 
ing Theodore's lifetime — only two thirds that of 
his father's — a never-failing source of human sym- 
pathy. Other news came to him at Barnstable — 
that Mr. Andrews Norton, who had resigned his 
professorship, had replied sharply in the " Boston 
Advertiser " to a favorable review of Martineau's 
" Rationale of Religious Inquiry " which Rev. 
George Ripley had written for the " Christian Ex- 
aminer." Parker resented Mr. Norton's interfer- 
ence and the manner of it in a letter to a friend. 


The incident is very properly regarded by Mr. 
Frothingham as " the first gun of a long battle." 
Shall we not rather say "of a long campaign," in 
the course of which Theodore Parker, at first a 
private soldier, came to be the commanding gen- 
eral of the insurrectionary forces, leading them 
valiantly, not without sore anxiety and many griev- 
ous wounds ? 

The closing weeks of 1836 found him preach- 
ing in Salem, visiting his classmates Silsbee and 
Andrews, and enjoying an unwonted opportunity 
for intercourse with people of much refinement 
and intelligence. His list of books read during 
the year numbers 320 volumes, and his plans 
for the coming year are so ambitious as to be 
dizzying to any ordinary mind. It is hard to find 
a principle of order in an agglomeration ranging 
from "Jacob Faithful " on the one hand, to " Eng- 
lish State Trials " and " Roman Public Instruc- 
tion " on the other. There was more method in the 
madness of his scheme of theological study. It re- 
veals him in a posture like that of Milton's " tawny 
lion pawing to get free His hinder parts." There 
is as yet no question of the reality of supernat- 
ural religion, but — " What is the extent of 
known supernatural revelation ? " — " The design 
of miracles ? the pretense of them in other reli- 
gions?" "The resurrection: How is the resur- 
rection of matter proof of the immortality of 
spirit ? Is not the material resurrection of the 
body of Jesus Christ unspiritualizing ? " Such were 


a few of the problems which engaged his interest 
and which were " significant of much " because here 
was actually a truth-seeker and not merely a young 
man engaged in the attempt to make his inherited 
opinions plausible and satisfactory. 

January and February of the new year find him 
again at Northfield and Greenfield delighting in 
the winter wind and weather : — 

A single walk along the banks of the Connecticut 
or among the hills . . . has taught me more than Mr. 
Emerson and all the Boston Association of Ministers. 

But he is not unmindful of these either, espe- 
cially when Professor Francis Bowen of Harvard 
attacks Emerson's " Nature " in the " Examiner." 
The frolic temper of the man, irrepressible hence- 
forth, and troublesome to many, escapes in a letter 
to a classmate : — 

Kant, Fichte, Schelling appeared to me in a vision 
of the night and deplored their sad estate. " Transcen- 
dentalism is clean gone," said Kant. " Verdammt ! " 
said Fichte. " What shall we do ? " exclaimed Schel- 
ling. They could not be appeased. 

Possibly it was the poetry in " Nature," and not 
the philosophy, that Professor Bowen could not 
abide, for it was he who denounced Wordsworth's 
" Daffodils " as miserable doggerel, so that it would 
seem that any real poetry must have been abhor- 
rent to his mind. 

Theodore was in more haste to be married than 
to be settled, yet to be married and not settled was 


not the haven where he would be. The two things 
went together in his hopes and plans. In Febru- 
ary he is writing Miss Cabot : — 

Only think that after a little bit of courtship of 
some four years we are on the very brink of Matri- 
mony ! Within a span's length of the abyss ! Without 
a parish too ! 520 dollars a year may be — may be 
much less — to support a wife. Why, I intend to com- 
mence such a rigorous system of sparing that I shall 
never cross a t nor dot an i ; for I '11 save ink. 

He had dreamed the night before of going into 
a bookstore and finding some books he had long 
wanted, villainously cheap, and of his answering 
the proprietor : — 

I shall never buy any more books ; . . . I am going 
to be married. But (he adds) if soft words can win 
hard coin, if there is any money-getting virtue in a 
knowledge of some twenty tongues, any talent in my 
mind, or any magic in the most unshrinking labor, I 
will take care that a wife do not beggar a soul of the 
means of growth and nobleness. If I can find anything 
to do in the literary way which will get one coin, be it 
never so hard, so it conflict with no duty, I will put 
forth my might, be it little, be it much. 

In the event his twenty tongues added nothing 
to, and deducted much from, his pecuniary ability. 
It was by what he spoke with the understanding 
that he was to profit withal. The languages were 
like the monster jealousy : they mocked the meat 
they fed on ; and, like the vampire, would have 
more. More books, and that continually. As 


with his languages, so with his literary product : 
for the most part, except as this was embodied in 
lectures delivered up and down the land, it brought 
him little money. 

Events now trod upon each other's heels. On 
April 20, his marriage with Miss Cabot took place. 
Just a month later, as we have seen, he finished 
the translation of De Wette's "Introduction." 
Three days from this provisional conclusion, May 
23, there came a call from the Spring Street So- 
ciety, West Roxbury, to which he had preached 
several times, making a good impression. The 
salary was small — $600 — less than was offered 
by some of the rival claimants, but Cambridge 
with its library was near, and Mr. Francis with 
his, and in Boston were the bookstores, and Dr. 
Channing and other men upon whose minds he 
hoped to sharpen his own. Then, too, there were 
people in the West Roxbury society — the Shaws, 
and Russells, and others — who made it peculiarly 
attractive. The call was accepted, and the ordina- 
tion and installation were solemnized on the 21st 
of June. Almost every name upon the list of the 
ordaining clergy has enjoyed persistent reputa- 
tion. Mr. Francis preached the sermon and warned 
the young minister not to neglect his studies. 
Henry Ware, Jr., offered the ordaining prayer, 
and remembering Theodore's " fondness for pecul- 
iar studies " in the Divinity School, prayed that 
no such fondness might divert him from doing 
God's work. Caleb Stetson, one of the rarest in 


a body of preachers that had many wits, delivered 
the charge. George Ripley of Brook Farm and 
other good report gave the right hand of fellow- 
ship. John Pierpont and John S. Dwight, both 
real poets, each furnished a hymn. One would be 
glad to know that Dwight's was his 

Sweet is the pleasure 

Itself cannot spoil ; 
Is not true pleasure 

One with true toil ? 

which has enjoyed a literally singular distinction 
not wholly unlike that of Cranch's " Thought is 
deeper than all speech." Dwight's would have 
been a splendid prophecy of such rest as Parker 
found in his unceasing work. But in fact it made 
its first appearance in the first number of the 
" Dial," following a sermon of Dwight's, " The Re- 
ligion of Beauty." 

Under such auspices began a ministry that was 
to continue for nine years and to prove a more 
eventful one than Parker himself or any of the 
ordaining clergy could so much as dream. The 
parish numbered about sixty families varying 
through such degrees of means and culture as in- 
cluded " rich men living peaceably in their habita- 
tions " and suburban farmers whose likeness to his 
father and other Lexington farmers must have done 
Parker good. His little white house J was a mile 

1 Making a pilgrimage to it May 28, 1899, 1 found that it had 
undergone much change since Parker's time, but the rooms in the 
main part retained their original character, and Parker's study was 
easily identified. Shortly after I learned that the place had been 


distant from the church, and was comfortable 
enough, with a garden on which to prove that 
his hands had not lost the cunning they had 
learned tending his father's trees and vines. His 
little plot adjoined the extensive grounds of Mr. 
George R. Russell, a notable parishioner and 
friend, and next to these were those of Francis 
George Shaw, 1 father of the heroic Robert Gould 
Shaw and of other children who are still serving God 
in their own way ; the wife, also, full of years and 
kindness and large-hearted sympathies. Here were 
gardens of refreshment out of doors, and to yet 
better purpose, and affording finer fruits and flow- 
ers, within doors, where there was taste and refine- 
ment, interest in all the living books and questions 
of the time, pregustation of papers written for the 
" Dial," some ventures in poetics, young people's 
sprightliness and laughter ; sometimes, perhaps, at 
the expense of Mr. Alcott's " Orphic Sayings " 
and other things with which the " Dial " con- 
founded the denser minds of an untoward genera- 
tion. In these pleasant families Parker wore off 
some of the angles which had survived the social 
opportunities he had so far enjoyed. The new- 
found happiness was dangerous, but not fatal, nor 
even harmful, to his parochial work. He neglected 
none of the humbler sort to " chaffer with the 
fine ladies," but made friends with rich and poor 

purchased by Roman Catholics and that one of their priests was 
to live there. What a chance for ghostly visitation ! 

1 A literary man of business, whose translation of Consuelo was 
an important feature in Ripley's Harbinger. 


alike. Indeed, the farmers had a peculiar grip 
on him through his long association with their 

His domestic happiness was not selfishly en- 
joyed. The " prophet's chamber " was always 
swept and garnished for Silsbee, Cranch, or some 
other schoolmate to come in and make himself at 
home. Parker's laborious studies did not shut 
him up in narrow isolation. The gentle wife was 
always hungry for those outward shows of love 
which he could easily supply. He was never more 
ironical than when he made " Bearsie " his pet 
name for her, 1 so little roughness of any kind was 
there about her. She had Shakespeare's ideal 
voice, " soft, gentle, and low," almost too bodiless. 
Intellectually she was not Parker's mate, but love 
was ever, to his thinking, " the greatest thing in 
the world," and she gave him abundantly of that. 
When years had passed and no children had been 
born to him, his fear of being always childless was 
a burden greater than he could bear with cheer- 
fulness, and to it may be ascribed some of the 
darkest clouds that settled on his mind. When 
the fear had grown to certainty, it was a perpetual 
void aching for the comfort that he must forego. 
He was very fond of Henry Alger, a son of Rev. 
William R. Alger, a boy of great promise which 
was suddenly cut off. Henry was very dear to me 

1 Suggested by her exaggerated interest in the bears she saw 
in Berne, when she was in Switzerland with her husband in 


also for a few years just after Parker's death. 
There was a merry swarm of children in the Alger 
house and Parker loved them dearly. Once when 
he was going away after a frolic with them, he 
said to Mrs. Alger, " I am the worst hated man in 
America, and have no children." 

Somewhere along in the first Roxbury years his 
wife went visiting and the journal reads : - — 

At home nominally ; but since wife is gone my 
home is in New Jersey. I miss her absence — wicked 
woman ! — most exceedingly. I cannot sleep or eat or 
work without her. It is not so much the affection she 
bestows on me as that she receives by which I am 
blessed. I want some one always in the arms of my 
heart to caress and comfort : unless I have this, I 
mourn and weep. But soon I shall go to see the girl 
once more. Meantime and all time heaven bless her ! 
I can do nothing without Lydia — not even read. 

His physical energy in these years was fully 
equal to the intellectual enthusiasm if not to the 
attendant strain. He was a vigorous walker, do- 
ing his visiting to Boston and the neighboring 
towns on foot, often making from ten to twenty 
miles a day. He walked all the way from Boston 
to New York, his daily allowance being about 
thirty miles. The bracing air in the White Moun- 
tains inspired more memorable feats. Yet some- 
where in his constitution there was a root of bitter- 
ness which bore a flower of melancholy hue. It 
may have been nourished by that consumptive 
habit of his family which so shortened his own life 


and permitted only one of his elders in the family 
to outlast his narrow span. But this habit, gener- 
ally, giving the brain an over-stock of blood, tends 
to a deceitful optimism and exhilaration. Prob- 
ably, then, we must look elsewhere for the cause 
of his depression : to the exhaustion of protracted 
thought and study ; to the contradiction between 
his sense of power and his ability to give it ade- 
quate expression ; as time went on to the slights 
of valued friends, to which he could not have been 
more sensitive than he was ; and close at home 
there was the growing consciousness that the wife, 
so tenderly loved and cared for and so exigent in 
her demands on his affection, was so constituted 
that she could not share his intellectual life. It 
was different with his humanitarian spirit as this 
gradually developed. Into this she entered heart- 
ily and with much sound discrimination both of 
men and things. 

However caused, his periods of depression were 
of less frequent occurrence and their term was 
shorter than I had been led to believe in advance 
of my personal studies, though Mr. Frothingham's 
opinion that perhaps a dozen times would cover all 
of their recurrences is, probably, too genial to be 
just. Only his most intimate friends would have 
known that there were such periods if his journals 
had not come to light. Even for these they were 
relatively unimportant. The sufferer did not wear 
his heart upon his sleeve for friends to stroke and 
soothe. And as for his sermons, bulkheads fire- 


proof and water-tight separated them from the 
compartments in which his moral indigo was packed 
away. Their note habitually was that of perfect 
health and radiant cheerfulness. It was hardly 
different with the public prayers, though here and 

from the soul's subterranean depth upborne, 
As from an infinitely distant land, 
Come airs and floating echoes that convey — 

a sympathy with others' misery which is eloquent 
of the reality of the personal experience from 
which it springs. 

Before his assumption of the West Eoxbury pas- 
torate, Parker had written about forty sermons. 
Probably few ministers have had so large a stock on 
the eve of their first settlement. A dozen is above 
the average number ; some of these so unsatisfac- 
tory that the young candidate has been known to 
borrow a classmate's fledgeling as a mate for his 
own best, when making a first venture into the open 
field. Parker tells us that his first sermons were 
only imitations. Even where the thought was 
fresh, the form was the old, stereotyped convention- 
alism. Nevertheless he began well : — 

At the beginning I resolved to preach the natural 
laws of man as they are writ in his constitution, no less 
and no more. After preaching a few months in various 
places, and feeling my way into the consciousness of 
man, I determined to preach nothing as religion which 
I had not experienced inwardly and made my own — 
knowing it by heart. 


Seven of his forty sermons written in advance 
of his settlement were Divinity School products. 
Among the subjects were, " Disinterested Virtue," 
" Necessity of an Honest Life," " Religion a Prin- 
ciple and a Sentiment." The last named was born 
again in one of the " West Roxbury Sermons," — 
" The Influence of Religion upon the Feelings," — 
and it shows how soon he entered upon one of his 
most characteristic lines. "West Roxbury Ser- 
mons " is a volume published in 1892. It was 
edited by my friend Samuel J. Barrows, Mr. Frank 
B. Sanborn furnishing a biographical sketch. The 
book is indispensable for those desiring to obtain 
a sound appreciation of Parker's West Roxbury 
preaching. Before he went to Boston he preached 
three hundred and sixty-two sermons to the West 
Roxbury congregation. His exchanges must have 
been frequent, seeing that he preached seven hun- 
dred and sixty-six times all told in the West Rox- 
bury years. His ultimate number of sermons was 
nine hundred and twenty-five, and he kept a sys- 
tematic record of all his "Preachings," as the 
book is named. Hence it is easy to discover on 
what sermons he set the seal of his own approval : 
one of them he preached twenty-five times ; others 
ten or twelve. It is, then, as if Mr. Barrows were 
following Parker's own advice when he chose the 
sermons Parker oftenest fell back upon. Of the 
fifteen sermons chosen, six were delivered before 
the famous South Boston sermon of 1841 and nine 
after it. A few were delivered both in Boston and 


West Roxbury, affording evidence that there was 
no violent break in the manner of his preaching 
when he left the suburban for the city parish. 

During his first year in Roxbury his sermons 
were simple and practical, the young man putting 
behind him with much self-denial and great strength 
of will the stores of book-learning he had already 
amassed. He was soon acquainted with every 
member of his little parish and knew each one's 
character and thoughts. He took great pains with 
his sermons ; they were never out of his mind, and 
his delight in writing them and preaching them 
was intense. These are his own words, not infer- 
ences or reports. There were sermons named 
"The Use of Crosses," " The Duty of Veracity," 
"Self -Renewal," "Tranquillity," "A Penny a 
Day," and so on. His habit of naming his sermons 
dated from the first attempt. It implied a distinct 
formulation of his idea every time, no mere ex- 
pansion or attenuation of a Scripture text, though 
each sermon had its text as well as its title, gener- 
ally, if not always, his life long. He writes of his 
early preaching : " The simple life of the farmers, 
mechanics, and milkmen about me, of its own 
accord, turned into a sort of poetry and reappeared 
in the sermons, as the green woods not far off looked 
into the windows of the meeting-house." 

There was a sermon on " The Temptations of 
Milkmen," which must, it would seem, have bor- 
rowed something of the milkmen's skill in watering 
their stock, to make it fill the measure of the habit- 


ual half hour. In the sermon on " Tranquillity " 
the fable was one which challenged personal ap- 
plication before many years had passed : " In 
thinking upon religious concerns, let all haste and 
violence and impetuosity be laid aside ; then, if 
at no other time, men should be calm." In " The 
World belongs to Each Man" we have one of 
those homely touches which became more frequent 
as his work advanced and gave his sermons their 
most attractive quality : — 

He who is a true and sound man in the city rejoices 
at the bales of goods he sees in the streets, in the great 
ships that bring us the fruits of other lands, in the 
wealth of the warehouse, in the splendor of the buildings, 
without dreaming of ownership. . . . The rose in the 
garden wafts its fragrance to the boy in the street ; it 
is as grateful to him as to the man in whose garden it 

In this sermon he quotes the great phrase of 
Emerson, " Give me health and a day and I will 
make the pomp of emperors ridiculous," but he does 
not name Emerson, perhaps because he wished the 
phrase to stand on its own feet, unbiased by the 
prejudice against Emerson begotten of his resigna- 
tion of his Boston charge and the reasons given for 
that act. 

In the sermon called " Application of Religion 
to Life " (1840) there is a suggestive glance at 
the reformatory movements of the time. He finds 
the temperance and anti-slavery and peace societies 
" pleasing and promising." " But as yet this ac- 


tion is only superficial and partial, and human pas- 
sions sometimes interrupt the work. The reformer 
leans to one side, and will see but a single vice." 
If he meant Garrison there, he certainly did not 
yet know him. This braver thought comes upper- 
most as he goes on : — 

But now when Christianity nods over her Bible and 
sleeps in her pew of a Sunday, while she makes slaves 
or keeps them, and strives to render the rich richer and 
the poor poorer all the week, the world cannot afford to 
be nice and criticise the only men who are awake and 
striving to do the world service. 

In " A Sermon on Man " we have for the first 
time those pigeonholes which served Parker so 
conveniently all his life long, when he would sepa- 
rate the nature of man into its constituent parts : 
senses, understanding, moral sense, affections, the 
religious element. And with this separation we 
have the exaltation of the religious element which 
held throughout his course. A sermon on " The 
Crucifixion," written the year following the South 
Boston sermon, speaks of Jesus as " the Saviour 
and Eedeemer of the World " with quiet confi- 
dence. But we may well believe that there were 
drops of his own heart's blood mixed with the ink 
with which he wrote this sermon, such a crucifixion 
had been his personal experience since that most 
fateful day of his career ; to his sensibility each 
little wound counting for more than great ones to 
a man made of more leathery stuff. 

In a sermon on " Christian Advancement " 


there is good evolutionary doctrine, at least sixteen 
years before Darwin's " Origin of Species," but for 
this he need not have gone further than the motto 
of Emerson's " Nature "or to the wonderful pas- 
sage in the chapter on Nature in the second series 
of Emerson's essays, which was of the same date 
with Parker's sermon (1844). If Parker's state- 
ment lacked originality it shows, at least, how 
kindly he took to the idea of organic development. 

In the visible world there is what philosophy calls 
a law of continuity. All is done gradually, nothing by 
leaps. Invisibly the vegetable and animal world ap- 
proach and intermingle. You cannot tell where the 
mineral kingdom begins, and the animal ends. They 
must be distinguished by their centre, not their circum- 
ference ; by a type, not a limit. There are visible 
links that connect beast and bird, fish and insect. In 
animals lower down you see hints that a man is yet to 
be. In man you see as it were vestiges of the lower 
animals, a certain bruteness which it is difficult to ex- 
plain, perhaps more difficult to manage. This brute 
element sometimes astonishes you in yourself. 

Clearly he is thinking of his own mother when 
he writes in the same sermon : — 

The best part of many a man's wisdom has come 
to him thence, when she laid her hand, now still in 
death, on his childish head and smoothed down his 
silken and boyish hair, and taught him of God, of con- 
science, of righteousness, and, awaking the devotion of 
his young heart, bade him fly toward heaven on his 
half-fledged wings. 


In the same sermon there is a splendid representa- 
tion of " the growth of a soul " prophetic of his 
own development. 1 

In the sermon on " Prayer and Intercourse with 
God " we have the higher waters of a stream that 
deepened and widened as his life flowed on to the 
wide valley lands which it enriched with its abound- 
ing flood. He would have every man, " young or 
old, set apart one half hour or half of that, for 
communing with himself and his God each day ; " 
" shut out the world and open his windows toward 
truth and God, and seriously think and really 
pray." In " God's Income to Man " there is one 
of his terrible pictures of a man who has misused 
his life, " a man with large powers, exceeding great, 
but proud, rebellious, violent, and self-willed — a 
snaky-minded man, forever in a coil, or moving 
with a wriggling gait from thought to thought . . . 
counting it life to shed a poison glitter in the sun, 
and with discordant thrust to hiss at passers-by, or 
lurking in the grass, with calumnious tooth to bite 
at a good man's heel." Here already we have the 
words shaping themselves upon the fact with that 
passion for reality which made the sermons of his 
full maturity so poignant in their thrusts at indi- 
vidual faults, so expressive of the preacher's sym- 
pathy with the struggles, sins, and sorrows of the 
men and women whom he would help to climb 
life's " steep-up heavenly hill." 

With such preaching and a beauty in his life 

1 West Boxbury Sermons, pp. 138, 139. 


that answered to the demands he made on others, 
it was not strange that his people valued him 
highly. But his craving for intellectual and spir- 
itual companionship took him frequently beyond 
his parish bounds. He went to Dr. Francis most 
for books and talk about them, to George Ripley 
and Dr. Channing oftenest for help in solving 
problems that were pressing on his mind. At one 
time we find Ripley and his wife staying at Rox- 
bury a whole week. " We were full of joy and 
laughter all the time of their visit." Here was a 
chance to settle the foundations of the universe till 
the next serious shock. In the winter of 1838-39 
he writes that he has not been to see Dr. Channing 
so often as before, though he likes to go as much 
as ever. At their last meeting Dr. Channing had 
praised his review of Ackermann's " Das Christ- 
liche in Plato " in the " Examiner," but thought 
he had not done justice to the superiority of Chris- 
tian morals over those of all previous systems, by 
which opinion Parker was made sorry. They dis- 
cussed conscience. Parker thought it infallible; 
Channing took the more modern view — that it is 
not. " He said conscience was like the eye, which 
might be dim or might be wrong." Parker de- 
murred and yet made concessions that amounted to 
agreement when he said, " Conscience will always 
decide right, if the case is fairly put, and old 
habits have not obscured its vision : " two tremen- 
dous if s. 

April 19th, as if to celebrate that historic day, 


he again visits Dr. Charming. Strauss's " Life of 
Jesus " is talked over. " He observed very archly 
that he should not be very sorry if some of Knee- 
land's followers would do it into the English. He 
would advise me not to do it." This wisdom of 
the serpent on Dr. Channing' s part was not char- 
acteristic, nor his saying that " Jesus had a mirac- 
ulous character, different in hind from ours." 
This does not agree with his characteristic doc- 
trine that all minds are of one family, nor with " a 
sermon of uncommon power but doubtful utility," 
in the opinion of his colleague, Dr. Gannett, which 
he preached January 5, 1840. It was " in defense 
and illustration of the doctrine that the glory of 
Christianity consists not in anything peculiar to 
itself, but in what it has in common with the teach- 
ings ' of reason and nature.' " " Even the char- 
acter of Christ and the character of God, Dr. 
Channing thought, were excellent and glorious 
rather for what they had in common with other 
good beings than for any attribute which they alone 
possessed." Dr. Gannett thought the sermon 
" suited to do more harm than good." May 2d 
Parker sees Dr. Channing again, and borrows 
" Origen." Dr. Channing speaks approvingly of 
Luther's liberal construction of the Sabbath and 
says the people should be told such things. In 
July we have the following comment : — 

If Dr. Channing could be ground over again and 
come out a young man of five and twenty, — give all 
the results of his reading, experience, and life, all the 


insight, power, eloquence, Christianity, he now pos- 
sesses, but let him hold the same religious, philoso- 
phical, political, and social opinions as now, and let 
him preach on them as he does, and let him with such 
tracts as his " Letter on Slavery," etc., be all unknown 
to fame, and he could not find a place for the sole of his 
foot in Boston, though half a dozen pulpits were vacant 
— not he. 

Meantime and steadily the reading went on in 
many languages and the study of innumerable 
books upon so many different lines that intellec- 
tual confusion would have been inevitable for a 
less cobrdinative mind. Even for his, there must 
have been, from first to last, great heaps of incon- 
gruous materials littering its spacious rooms. Om- 
niscience, which Sydney Smith called Macaulay's 
foible, was with Parker the most enviable attri- 
bute of God. Knowledge of all kinds had for 
him an irresistible attraction. It was like the 
sheet let down to Peter by the four corners out 
of heaven. It had for him nothing common or 
unclean. The revision of the De Wette "Intro- 
duction" was always in the foreground of his stud- 
ies. In the middle distance were Hume, Gibbon, 
Robertson, Laplace, Leibnitz, Abelard, Averroes, 
Baur, Hegel, Schleiermacher, Hesiod, commented 
on minutely, Plato, always within reach. Here is 
a jumble of names that might be indefinitely en- 
larged by the addition of less familiar ones of Ger- 
man scholars who have " had their day and ceased 
to be." Lowell satirized in the " Fable for Crit- 


ics," through ten or twelve lines of incongruous 
proper names, Parker's habit of personal mention 
in his sermons, concluding : — 

You may add for yourselves, for I find it a bore, 
All the names you have ever, or not, heard before, 
And when you 've done that, why, invent a few more. 

The satire on the sermons was very broad in- 
deed ; the exaggeration wild ; but without exag- 
geration or invention a list of the books to which 
Parker attended during any year of his West 
Roxbury or Boston ministry would be hardly less 
chaotic than Lowell's catalogue ; especially if, be- 
yond the middle distance, we should study the 
background of his mind. There poets of all kinds 
made perpetual holiday. He was so merry over 
one of these that the workmen in the garden 
thought he had gone daft. He surrenders uncon- 
ditionally to Goethe's " Theory of Colors," — find- 
ing, no doubt, a place for repentance before long, — 
and to his Lyrics ; but Goethe the man repels him 
violently : " He is an artist ; not a man. . . . There 
is no warm beat out from his heart." Parker's 
mind reacted vividly on everything he read, and 
the most unpromising book was pretty sure to yield 
him a few grains of thought. 

Despite the proverb of the prophet without 
honor, there came to Parker, in 1840, an invitation 
to the Lexington pulpit. He was very grateful 
for it and profoundly touched by it ; it delighted 
him; but he thought his Roxbury people would 
lose more by his leaving them than he should gain, 


and so refused " the good old people of the good 
old town " in which he had grown up. Besides, 
he was going to do more henceforth through the 
press than the pulpit. He had fifty hours a week 
to spare (!) for work not directly connected with his 
preaching or parish. But except as the press ex- 
tended the influence of his pulpit work this dream 
was never realized to any considerable extent. 



Roughly stated, the process by which New 
England Congregationalism was purged of Unita- 
rian heresy extended from 1815 to 1830. It did 
not differ from such processes in general in its 
assimilation of certain elements which the Congre- 
gationalists had violently contemned. One of the 
many ways in which God fulfills himself is this 
lighting of our torches at the stakes of burning 
heretics. That Luther's reformation reformed the 
Roman Church is a fact too often overlooked, and 
yet of hardly less importance than the Protestant 
development. So Channing's reformation meant 
a good deal of reform within the orthodox body. 
Not the most insignificant of Jonathan Edwards's 
bequests to the New England Congregationalists 
was his daring speculative disposition and his insist- 
ence on a reasonable explanation of the divine reve- 
lation ; and when the house of his spiritual pro- 
geny was at length divided, not all of this bequest 
went into Unitarian keeping. The last years of 
Channing's life, corresponding to the third decade 
of the century, were particularly fruitful of theo- 
logical change, not only in Congregational but also 


in Presbyterian circles ; and the changes were all 
approximations to the Unitarian standpoint, result- 
ing in part from the widening " process of the 
suns," and in part from the unconscious disposi- 
tion to escape as far as might be from the criticisms 
of the Unitarian theologians. Even before 1830 
we find the most accurate statements of Calvinism 
which the most conscientious Unitarian scholars 
were able to make repudiated as cruel misrepre- 
sentations of the current faith. The approxima- 
tion, thus begun, has proceeded ever since, and 
with the inevitable consequence of making many 
well content in the older churches whom a stronger 
insistence on the characteristic doctrines of Calvin- 
ism would have sent outside the camp to join the 
Unitarians and share in their reproach. 

But if the separation of the Unitarians from the 
Calvinistic churches was not a signal for the latter 
to think they had already attained, it was still less 
so in the Unitarian camp. Hardly had the sepa- 
ration been completed (about 1830) than there be- 
gan a process of differentiation in the more liberal 
body and a controversy which became violent in 
1841 and continued so some years after that epoch- 
making one. The American Unitarians had never 
been strictly homogeneous. When their contro- 
versy with the Calvinists began, the most of them 
were Arians holding that Jesus was a being sui 
generis, " but an iota less than God ; " while the 
minority were Socinians, holding that Jesus was a 
human being, exalted to the right hand of God 


because of his devoted life and " bitter cross." 
The Socinians followed the English habit of thought 
as represented by Priestley and Lindsey and Bel- 
sham, the English Arians being few — the most 
notable of the earlier, Milton, and Locke, and 
Samuel Clarke, and of the later Richard Price, 
who was Benjamin Franklin's valued friend, intro- 
ducing him to Priestley, and, by his public advo- 
cacy of the French Revolution, arousing Burke to 
those " Reflexions " which reflect a brilliant and 
yet doubtful honor on the writer's name. 

The Socinians were devoutly Biblical, and study- 
ing hard to find out what the Bible taught they 
made some approximation to a better understand- 
ing of what it actually is. Their tentative criti- 
cism excited painful apprehensions in the more 
conservative Unitarian mind. Norton, the impas- 
sioned leader of the supernaturalists in 1839, was 
so far disapproved by Channing in 1819 as one of 
" the imprudents " that he opposed his elevation to 
the Dexter Professorship in Harvard College. And 
yet, as time went on, Channing's large and open 
soul was much more prophetic of important changes 
than Norton's critical temper. He was not, in 
truth, so representative a Unitarian in his own 
time as he has come to be in the affectionate re- 
gard of later Unitarians. No one has developed 
this fact so clearly as O. B. Frothingham in his 
" Boston Unitarianism." Indeed, he goes so far as 
to represent his typical Boston Unitarians — ration- 
alistic, compromising, suave, urbane, literary, ele- 


gant, timid, obscurantist, non-committal, more syb- 
arite than saint — as the only real Unitarians ; 
Channing and Parker too distinct from them to be 
regarded as varieties of the same species. 

The truth would seem to be that Mr. Frothing- 
ham's Boston humanists, his Boston Unitarians 
par excellence, expressed the essential quality of 
the Unitarian movement from 1820 to 1850 about as 
well as Erasmus and the other humanists expressed 
the essential quality of the Protestant Reformation. 
They are not even exhaustive of Boston Unita- 
rianism beyond the range of Channing's profound 
spirituality and Parker's sturdy theological and 
political polemics. Dr. Gannett's soul was not of 
their assembly, nor did his genius — enthusiastic, 
organizing, militant — bear much resemblance to 
the genial talent of their placid, esoteric minds. 
John Pierpont and Nathaniel Hall were spirits of 
another color ; and Dr. Francis of another still. 
Moreover Boston Unitarianism did not exhaust the 
Unitarian type. There were Unitarians in the out- 
lying parts — Follen, Worcester, Willard, Stone, 
Briggs, Stearns, Stetson, John Parkman, and the 
Mays, Samuel and S. J., and Furness, in partibus 
injidelium. All these Unitarian ministers, with 
many others, were faithful in the anti-slavery con- 
flict, but it is also true that, without exception, 
they exhibited a different temper, intellectual and 
moral, from that of those Boston Unitarians whom 
Mr. Frothingham has interpreted with more gen- 
erous sympathy because Dr. Nathaniel L. Froth- 


ingham, his father, was one of the most engaging 
of their coterie. 

There were men before Parker, as before Aga- 
memnon, and there were events and persons lead- 
ing on by natural and inevitable gradation to the 
crisis of which Parker was the efficient cause. 
Channing, whose conscious allegiance to the prin- 
ciple of free inquiry was perfect and entire, lived 
and died believing that this principle was thor- 
oughly consistent with his apprehension of Jesus 
as a supernatural person and the Bible as a super- 
natural book. His belief was that of the majority 
of Unitarians, well-nigh of all, in 1830. Using 
their reason in the freest manner possible, as it 
seemed to them, they found the Bible, Jesus, 
Christianity, all supernatural. The teachings of 
this religion, this person, this book, they found en- 
tirely reasonable. The confidence with which this 
position was maintained accounts for much of the 
vigor and boldness with which the right of free 
inquiry was insisted on by many Unitarian preach- 
ers. If they had had the least suspicion that it 
would some day invalidate the supernatural record 
and impugn the supernatural person, they would 
have been less bold. They were not all so bold as 
Channing, who said, " The truth is, and it ought 
not to be disguised, that our ultimate reliance is 
and must be upon reason ; " and again, " If after 
a deliberate and impartial use of our best faculties, 
a professed revelation seems to us plainly to dis- 
agree with itself or clash with great principles 


which we cannot question, we ought not to hesitate 
in withholding from it our belief. I am surer that 
my rational nature is from God than that any book 
is the expression of his will." Here was a Magna 
Charta which Parker's ultimate career wrote large 
and ran out into various particulars. Channing 
would have issued it as unreservedly if he had fore- 
seen all that we now see. But he did not foresee 
all this. There were others who contended that, 
when reason and conscience clash with revelation, 
unconditional surrender is men's bounden duty. 
The younger Ware had taught young men after 
this fashion from his Harvard chair. 

Of coming events that were to make a painful 
schism in the Unitarian body one of the first shad- 
owy intimations was Emerson's inability to ad- 
minister " the Lord's Supper " in a sincere and 
satisfactory manner and his consequent withdrawal 
from the pulpit of the Second (Hanover Street) 
Church. In 1836 his " Nature " was a more posi- 
tive event, and a more fruitful seed. Of all those 
to whom in America the message of Carlyle was 
as a voice from heaven, Emerson heard it with 
the most serene and perfect joy. It helped him 
towards distinct self - consciousness and self-ex- 
pression. Here was another prophet, wider and 
farther seeing than Carlyle, of the immanent and 
present God, the divinity of nature, the unending 
genesis and abiding revelation, a continuator of 
Channing's " one sublime idea " of the greatness 
of the human soul. His declaration that "the 


soul knows no persons " was the affirmation of a 
truth which even the more liberal are slow to 
learn ; namely, that the great ethical and spiritual 
laws transcend all personal illustrations and make 
it an impiety to assign to any individual a unique 
relation to their infinity, even as the breadth and 
depth and height of universal life and mystery and 
law make it, for the instructed mind, but little less 
than blasphemy to identify a historic person, of 
whatever excellence, with the Eternal God, or even 
to predicate of such a person a wholly exceptional 
relation to him who is over all, God, blessed for- 

In the same year with Emerson's "Nature " ap- 
peared Furness's " Remarks on the Four Gospels." 
He was then in the eleventh year of that Phila- 
delphia pastorate which, active and honorary, cov- 
ered more than seventy years. He was a new 
humanitarian, differing widely from the Socinian 
type. The most significant part of his work was 
that which steepened the incline down which Uni- 
tarian thought was sliding from a supernaturalist 
to a purely naturalist account of Christianity. 
For him and his followers the New Testament 
miracles ceased, as purely natural events, to be 
evidences for a supernatural Christianity as com- 
pletely as if all reality whatsoever were denied to 
them. Moreover his word " natural " reacted on 
men's thought : meaning, with him, naive, uncon- 
scious, it got his hearers used to thinking of the 
natural as the historical and made it easier for 


them to adopt the scientific meaning of the word, 
which is " habitual." It is simply as not habitual 
that the New Testament miracles do not approve 
themselves to the scientific mind. 

There were many European currents that con- 
verged upon New England thought about this time. 
Carlyle's total manner of thinking was one of the 
most potent of all these, his " Sartor Resartus " 
its most forcible expression, the chapter on " Natu- 
ral Supernaturalism " in that tumultuous rhapsody 
the most significant particular. Here was the 
glad perception that the miracles of violated law 
were cheap compared with those of its abiding 
faithfulness. The influence of Coleridge, also, was 
very great, but, fortunately for Unitarian clearness, 
did not impress some of its particular ideas on the 
Unitarian theology, and especially its antithesis of 
natural and supernatural religion, the former mean- 
ing a religion of sensational (experiential) origin, 
and the latter a religion of intuitional origin. Had 
Parker accepted this nomenclature he would have 
been — not even Bushnell excepted — the most 
ardent supernaturalist of his time. He left it for 
Bushnell to take up, and it has been very common 
in our theological history ; very useful and conven- 
ient for those desiring to get all the salvage possi- 
ble from the wreck of their traditional belief. It 
was from Coleridge, or rather through Coleridge, 
that the distinction of " reason " and " understand- 
ing" came into New England thought, and this 
distinction Parker used with cordial and emphatic 


iteration. It was one of Coleridge's best-known 
appropriations from the German schools ; and his 
best contribution to the New England ferment 
was his introduction of young men to those schools, 
and a spring-like warmth of thought which made 
fluid many things which had been hard and fixed, 
but which, once set loose, could not all run again 
into the channels of the traditional belief. 

It is altogether probable that in the thirties the 
influence of Germany was mainly through Coleridge 
and Carlyle, but they incited men to seek the foun- 
tain head. So did Edward Everett as early as 
1820 and George Bancroft a few years later, but 
it was in Frederic Henry Hedge, who went to Ger- 
many in Bancroft's charge in 1818, and remained 
there studying the language and literature of the 
country for five years, that the first-hand know- 
ledge of German thought reached its high tide 
in the Transcendental period. James Freeman 
Clarke was another Germanist, and his translation 
of De Wette's " Theodore, or The Skeptic's Con- 
version " was noted by Dr. Joseph Henry Allen 
as the first book he remembered showing " clear 
traces of German influence on critical opinion," 
though it was not published until 1841. Ripley 
came into possession of a small library of German 
books, through the death of a young student, and 
read them carefully and to good purpose when he 
took upon himself the defense of German theology 
against the aspersions of Mr. Norton's "Latest 
Form of Infidelity." But it was Jouffroy's " Eth- 


ics " that he chose to translate in 1838, and, in 
general, such French Eclectics as Constant and 
Jouffroy and Cousin were more attractive than the 
Germans with their more abstruse, and, doubtless, 
more profound philosophy. 

The year 1835 was truly a wonderful year for Bib- 
lical criticism. It saw the publication of Strauss' s 
" Life of Jesus " and Baur's " Pastoral Epistles " 
and Vatke's " Eeligion of the Old Testament," 
three of the most significant books that have ever 
seen the light : Baur's initiating his tendency theory 
of New Testament explication, relating everything 
to the Petro-Pauline controversy ; Vatke furnish- 
ing the germ of Kuenen's revolutionary doctrine 
of the late origin of the Priestly part of Hexateuch ; 
Strauss rescuing criticism from the blind alley in 
which it had been wandering and clearing the way 
for a scientific method. We hear of his book as 
being dead and buried : buried ? — yes, very much 
as a bombshell under the ruins of a building it has 
successfully blown up. The first copy of Strauss 
is said to have been brought to America in 1836 
or '37 by Kev. Henry A. Walker, a graduate of 
the Harvard Divinity School in the class of '33 
with Freeman Clarke, W. H. Channing, and Sam- 
uel May of Leicester, a generous rival of his 
cousin's (S. J.) anti-slavery fame. Mr. Walker, 
who had been studying in Grermany, lent the book 
to Parker, who wrote a review of it for the " Ex- 
aminer" in 1840, in which his praise and blame 
were not rightly divided, the latter being in the 


ascendant. Heretofore the most significant piece 
of American criticism had been Dr. Noyes's " Ex- 
aminer " article reviewing Hengstenberg in 1834. 
He said frankly, " It is difficult to point out any 
prophecies which have been fulfilled in Jesus," 
and barely escaped a prosecution for blasphemy for 
his frankness. He was, as we have seen, Parker's 
first teacher in the Lexington district school, — as 
such Parker sent him a copy of his De Wette's 
" Introduction," — and he was one of Parker's first 
teachers in the school of critical sincerity. 

That it might be fulfilled as it is written, " One 
fig tree looking on another fig tree becometh fruit- 
ful," the men impressed and agitated by these 
various impulses of criticism and philosophy found 
it necessary to come together and compare notes 
and mutually correct and stimulate each other. 
Hence " The Transcendental Club," as it was nick- 
named by outsiders ; called by Mr. Alcott " The 
Symposium Club," and by its members, generally, 
" The Hedge Club," because its meetings were held 
to suit Mr. Hedge's convenience, when the indif- 
ference of the Boston churches had driven him 
to Bangor, Me., where he found many people of 
exceptional intelligence and character, and ample 
quietness in which to nurse his secret growth. The 
Club, however named, has had no written history 
as yet so good as Colonel Higginson's, in his 
" Margaret Puller Ossoli," and his account of the 
different personal elements involved in it is too 
apt to be declined : — 


Hedge supplied the trained philosophic mind ; Con- 
vers Francis, the omnivorous mental appetite ; James 
Freeman Clarke, the philanthropic comprehensiveness ; 
Theodore Parker, the robust energy ; Orestes A. Brown- 
son, the gladiatorial vigor ; Caleb Stetson, the wit ; 
William Henry Channing, the lofty enthusiasm ; Ripley, 
the active understanding [and the dream of social bet- 
terment] ; Bartol, the flame of aspiration ; Alcott, the 
pure idealism ; Emerson, the lumen siccum. 

Others came infrequently ; Dr. Channing (with 
George Bancroft) only once. Dr. Channing went 
often to another Club, called by Parker "The 
Friends," which met at the rooms of Dr. Chan- 
ning's high-minded parishioner, Jonathan Phillips. 
Parker went to this club also several times. Once 
the theme was Progress, — " This was a Socratic 
meeting," Dr. Channing the Socrates. " Had the 
conversation been written out by Plato, it would 
equal any of his beautiful dialogues." A week 
later, February 15, 1838, the subject was given 
by some recent lecture of Emerson's and the dis- 
cussion was upon the personality of God. Parker 
agreed with Ripley that Emerson was too panthe- 
istic and that his God was too much of an idea. 
Ripley's position is interesting in view of his tak- 
ing up a year later the defense of the German 
pantheists against Norton's attack on them. The 
same people turned up at this Club as at the 
Transcendental, with a margin of difference. 

The " Dial," or some such periodical, had been a 
matter of hope and plan with Margaret Fuller and 


Hedge before lie went to Bangor. The Club re- 
vived the root which had dried up in his absence 
from Boston. The " Dial " was obviously required 
to mark the sunny hours of the Club and the pro- 
gress of the new dawn of intellectual and social 
aspiration. It is mentioned here only as one more 
sign of the general ferment of the time. Abner 
Kneeland's " Investigator " was another, its temper 
that of Thomas Paine, but more negative than 
Paine in its theology. (When in 1834 Kneeland 
was imprisoned for atheism, Dr. Channing had 
given the measure of his moral courage by head- 
ing a petition for his release.) In 1840 Parker's 
journal contains eight folio pages, closely written, 
on a certain Groton convention of " Come-outers," 
which he had attended and addressed. He had 
walked to the place of meeting — thirty miles — 
with Ripley and another friend, picking up Cranch 
at Newton, and Alcott in Concord, where they 
visited Emerson with much satisfaction, and were 
admonished by Dr. Ripley from the summit of his 
years — fourscore and ten — not to be " egomites " 
— self-sent. Parker's own speech was an indict- 
ment of sectarianism and a plea for religious unity 
and for " the Christianity of Christ.' ' 

Jesus of Nazareth was the greatest soul ever swathed 
in the flesh ; to redeem man, he took his stand on right- 
eousness and religion ; on no form, no tradition, no 
creed. He demanded not a belief, but a life, — a life of 
love to God, and love to man. We must come back to 
this ; the sooner the better. 


His attitude towards the convention, in which 
Second Adventists were prominent, and there were 
cranks with various specifics for making the world 
go round, was very sympathetic and humane. He 
was surprised to find so much illiberality among 
those who had called the convention, so much bond- 
age to the letter of the Bible and to the formal- 
ism of the church, but " surprised and enchanted " 
to find the plain men from Cape Cod making ac- 
tual his own ideas. He felt strengthened by their 
example. Only there must be intellectual culture 
with the progressive spirit. 

From the chaotic elements that were surging in 
New England as Parker neared the threshold of 
his thirtieth year, one event emerges, as I saw Mt. 
Tacoma, after many days of cloud and rain, a pure 
white wonder shaping itself against the morning 
sky. I speak of Emerson's Divinity School Ad- 
dress of July 15, 1838, which was delivered in the 
little chapel of Divinity Hall to the class graduat- 
ing that year. It was one of the three most mem- 
orable addresses known to the Unitarian annalist 
in the history of his sect. An earlier one was 
Channing's Baltimore sermon of 1819 ; a later, 
Parker's of 1841, to which all the preparation of 
this chapter tends. Bellows's " Suspense of Faith " 
in 1859 and Hedge's " Anti-Supernaturalism in 
the Pulpit "in 1864 were significant, and made 
much noise, but they were both backward-looking 
and both ephemeral as compared with either of 
the three just named. When Emerson's address 


was given, Parker was on hand. It must have 
been late when he got back to Roxbury that night, 
but he did not go to bed till he had written this 
in his journal : — 

. . . He surpassed himself as much as he surpasses 
others in the general way. ... So beautiful, so just, so 
true, and terribly sublime was his picture of the faults 
of the church in its present position. My soul is roused, 
and this week I shall write the long - meditated ser- 
mons on the state of the church and the duties of these 

There were two other sermons which presently 
came out of the drawer where for some months 
they had been biding their time. They dealt with 
the Bible, the inconsistencies and contradictions of 
its various parts. Especially for one so impetuous, 
Parker's self-control and patience were remarkable. 
He had advanced a little in his thinking at Cam- 
bridge; a good deal it seemed to him. He had 
kept on since his graduation. But there was no 
sign of haste in his conclusions. When, in 1838, 
he reviewed Dr. Palfrey's "Jewish Antiquities," 
the doctor's disposition to minimize the miracles of 
the Old Testament, while still believing in their 
necessary sanction, seemed to him very strange. 
He sought help from all quarters. He trudged all 
the way to Andover to talk with Professor Moses 
Stuart, and found him in agreement with Channing 
as to the superiority of reason to revelation as a 
last resort. He visited Professor Norton at Cam- 
bridge, and was " delighted to see so profound and 


accurate a scholar." A year after Emerson's great 
address, Professor Norton made his famous reply- 
to it, " The Latest Form of Infidelity." It was a 
deliberate utterance. He had been brooding over 
it during the interim between Emerson's address 
and his own opportunity, July 19, 1839. Several 
months in advance of Emerson's address he was in 
a state of mind that required some more elaborate 
expression than his correspondence and his personal 
intercourse afforded him. I have his autograph 
letter of February 12, 1838, to Dr. Noyes, advis- 
ing him in regard to a lecture upon Episcopal 
ordination which Dr. Noyes was about to write. 
It passes from its immediate occasion to denomina- 
tional matters : — 

The community begin to feel that a clergyman who 
merely preaches two dull or mischievous sermons a 
week, and goes through the ordinary routine of his 
office, is not a very important member of society. Es- 
pecially if men get the impression which some of the 
clergy and candidates in this neighborhood are likely to 
give, that their superior wisdom consists in rejecting all 
common belief in Christianity and in God, that they 
look upon this only as a popular manifestation of the 
religious principle to which they are willing to accommo- 
date their language for the sake of those who cannot rise 
to any higher degree of spirituality, then the last blow 
to the credit and even existence of the clergy will have 
been given. No clergy will be supported among us to 
teach transcendentalism, infidelity, and pantheism. 

Within the year following Emerson's address 
the alumni of the Divinity School had formed an 


association, apparently with a view to furnishing 
successive counterblasts to such utterances as the 
graduating classes might invite, seeing that one of 
its first acts was to establish an annual lectureship 
and elect Mr. Norton as the first lecturer. His 
warning trumpet gave no uncertain sound : — 

The latest form of infidelity is distinguished by as- 
suming the Christian name, while it strikes directly at 
the root of faith in Christianity, and indirectly of all 
religion, by denying the miracles attesting the divine 
mission of Christ. 

There was some adverse criticism of German 
philosophers and theologians, but the main busi- 
ness of the address was to charge dishonesty on 
those who did not reject the Christian name when 
they could no longer accept the truths of Chris- 
tianity on account of the New Testament miracles. 
The situation was a vivid reproduction of that 
which existed twenty years before, when the Cal- 
vinists denied the Christian name to all who were 
not Calvinists. It was more irrational and less 
ethical than that, because the Calvinists of 1819 
believed great truths to be in danger, — the Trin- 
ity, the Atonement, the Deity of Christ, — while 
Mr. Norton and his friends had only to object that 
their great truths were not believed for their own 
particular reasons, — the New Testament miracles, 
— that it might be fulfilled as it was written in 
the New Testament, " Blessed are they who have 
not seen and yet have believed." It cannot be 
too clearly understood that the gravamen of Mr. 


Norton's charge was not the denial of miracle, but 
the denial of its indispensable evidential quality : 
" the only satisfactory proof." 

By a belief in Christianity we mean the belief that 
Christianity is a revelation by God of the truths of 
religion ; and that the divine authority of him whom 
God commissioned to speak to us in his name was at- 
tested, in the only mode in which it could be, by mi- 
raculous displays of his power. 

Here was distinctly lower ground than that taken 
by Jonathan Edwards, of whom Dr. A. V. G. 
Allen writes : — 

Edwards had risen above the necessity of attaching 
supreme importance to miracle as the highest evidence 
of God's activity in the world. In plain truth, he takes 
little or no interest in miracles. He makes them hold 
a subordinate place, as compared with the internal evi- 
dences of the truth of Christ's religion. . . . The his- 
torical testimony of miracles must be weighed by those 
who have the necessary learning or leisure. But the 
divine light may come to children and to weak women, 
bringing with it its own evidence of divinity. 

Here is good evidence for the validity of the claim 
which has been made for Edwards as a Transcen- 
dentalist before Emerson. 1 

1 The Transcendentalism of Emerson and Parker had been 
anticipated by Calvin also, in comparison with whose doctrine 
that of Mr. Norton is surprisingly unspiritual and mechanical. 
Calvin wrote : " Holy Scripture has means of making itself 
known, exciting a feeling just as clear and infallible as when 
black and white things make evident their color, or the sweet 
and bitter things their taste." 


The most notable reply to Mr. Norton's address 
was furnished by George Eipley, then the pastor of 
the Purchase Street Unitarian Society in Boston. 
It was in three parts, dated September and Decem- 
ber, 1839, and February, 1840. The second and 
third parts were in reply to Mr. Norton's defense 
of his address against Mr. Eipley's attack. The 
first part was the most effective, because dealing 
closely with the main question : Are miracles the 
sole ground for belief in Christianity? and the 
subsidiary one : Could no one be a Christian who 
accepted the truths of Christianity for their own 
sake without any miraculous compulsion ? Mr. 
Norton's steel-cold intelligence made it a more dif- 
ficult matter for Mr. Eipley to make out a case 
for Schleiermacher and other Germans as believers 
in a personal God and immortality. Parker wrote 
of Eipley's first pamphlet in advance : — 

He will not say all I wish might be said ; but, after 
we have seen that, I will handle, in a letter to you, cer- 
tain other points not approached by Ripley. There is a 
higher word to be said on tjhis subject than Ripley is 
disposed to say just now. 

He said the higher word to the best of his abil- 
ity in an anonymous pamphlet : " The Previous 
Question between Mr. Andrews Norton and his 
Alumni moved and handled in a Letter to all those 
Gentlemen by Levi Blodgett." All that was most 
significant in the South Boston sermon was present 
in this pamphlet of the previous year. The Tran- 


scendentalism was full-blown ; there was passionate 
regret that men should believe the great spiritual 
truths of religion on such physical grounds as 
miracles supply, while at the same time he said, 
" I believe that Jesus, like other religious teachers, 
wrought miracles." Ripley had made a similar 
avowal in one of his letters to Mr. Norton. It is 
therefore perfectly plain that the standard around 
which the battle raged was not, "Did miracles 
happen ? " but, " Are they the sole or best reason 
for accepting the truths of Christianity ? " The 
unpardonable sin was belief in Christianity upon 
the ground of its intrinsic excellence, its " eternal 
beauty, so ancient and yet so new." The subject 
was debated at the Berry Street Conference 1 in 
1840 : " Ought differences of opinion on the value 
and authority of miracles to exclude men from 
Christian fellowship and sympathy with one an- 
other." This sounds as if the liberals had had the 
shaping of the question. It was asked if it was 
proper for men differing about the miracles to ex- 
change pulpits. Ripley, Stetson, and Hedge made 
good liberal speeches. Parker said nothing, for 
fear that he might say too much. He went home 
resolving that he would let out all the force of 
Transcendentalism there was in him. His con- 
sciousness of real power was growing every day, 

1 This Conference, which met annually in May, was so called 
because it met in a room of Dr. Channing's Federal Street church 
which opened on Berry Street. It still keeps the old name 
though now meeting in the Arlington Street church. The mem- 
bership is exclusively ministerial. 


and he was entertaining schemes of work sufficient 
for the longest life : — 

I have a work to do and how am I straitened till it 
he accomplished. ... I must write an Introduction to 
the New Testament — must show that Christianity is 
its universal and distinctive part. I must write a Phi- 
losophy of Man, and show the foundation of religion in 
him. . . . But much hard work must be done before I 
can approach the Introduction. This I am now pre- 
paring for. Still harder work before the Philosophy 
can come forth, and much more before the crown of 
Theology can be put on the work. Here is work for 
digging, for flying, and for resting, still yielding to the 
currents of universal being that set through a soul that 
is pure. 

Meantime, the Levi Blodgett pamphlet, and 
rumors of his more theological sermons, and the 
passing round of certain of his franker private 
utterances, were marking him for "a sign that 
should be spoken against," a man under suspicion of 
heresy. The South Boston sermon, when it came, 
bore evidence that he was smarting from the stings 
of brotherly distrust. There was a distinctly per- 
sonal note, as where he said, " Already men of the 
same sect eye one another with suspicion and 
lowering brows that indicate a storm, and, like 
children who have fallen out in their play, call 
hard names." There was also the thin end of 
what would ultimately prove the thickest and most 
divisive wedge between him and his ministerial 
brethren: "Alas for that man who consents to 


think one thing in his closet and preach another 
in his pulpit ! " This was a sorrow in no wise 
peculiar to Theodore Parker. It is shared in 
some measure by every man of every sect who tries 
to shape his public utterance as closely as may be 
upon his private thought. 

In January, 1840, he preached the Thursday lec- 
ture ; his subject " Inspiration." (He had just 
published a noble article in the "Examiner" on 
Cudworth's " Intellectual System of the Universe," 
a book much read in Transcendental circles.) After 
the lecture some excellent divine interrupted his 
talk with Dr. Francis, to say, " When you write 
about Ralph Cudworth I like ye ; but when you 
talk about future Christs I can't bear ye." There 
may have been a real grievance here, for Parker 
sometimes passed too easily from his general faith 
in progress to the conviction that the great indi- 
viduals of the past would be excelled. They may 
be, but his own doctrine did not require it, nor 
does any sound doctrine of progress. Later in the 
year (1840) he writes in the journal that he has 
repeatedly solicited an exchange with this, that, 
and the other minister, but in vain. He will try 
others " for the experiment's sake." But he would 
laugh outright to find himself weeping because the 
Boston clergy would not exchange with him. The 
event did not make good this cheerful prophecy. 
The laugh was hollow, but the tears were real 
enough, for he was a tender-hearted man. 

On May 19, 1841, "a raw day," as Parker 


afterward set down, there was an ordination and 
installation in the South Boston Unitarian Church. 
The candidate was Charles C. Shackford, who 
afterward preaching at Lynn, Mass., and teach- 
ing in Cornell University, made good the hope 
expressed in Parker's ordination sermon that he 
would give " the freshness of his early inspira- 
tion " to his lifelong work. The title of the ser- 
mon, " The Transient and Permanent in Christian- 
ity," was, I think, suggested by the title of some 
recent essay by " young Mr. Strauss," as Parker 
designates him. Parker was feeling dull when he 
wrote it, and he was ill satisfied with it ; while a 
candid friend (Ripley ?) pronounced it the poorest 
thing he had ever done; which it certainly was 
not. If it was loose in structure, it was not ex- 
ceptional among his sermons in that respect, nor 
in its redundancy. It had more of the organic 
unity of his earlier sermons than of the formal 
coherency of the later ones. There were some 
lapses of taste — never his strongest point ; there 
was here and there a purple patch of rhetoric. It 
is easy to agree with Mr. Frothingham that as a 
work of art it is not to be compared with " Emer- 
son's exquisite chant " three years before ; but the 
rest of his sentence is equally true : " as a mani- 
festo it was vastly more significant." What that 
sang so sweetly in the willing ears that were at- 
tuned to such elusive melody, this proclaimed as 
from the housetops, and as with a trumpet's voice. 
Channing had said the same thing in his own quiet 


way, and Dr. Gannett, as we have seen, had made 
adverse note of it, but the casual expression had 
not had its due effect. Kipley had preached many 
times, and even at one installation, a sermon, 
"Jesus Christ the same Yesterday, To-day, and 
Forever," the positive side of which coincided ex- 
actly with the positive side of Parker's " Transient 
and Permanent," but, while the negative implica- 
tion was the same, it was too faintly adumbrated 
to startle any one enjoying quiet sleep. 

Parker's sermon — a warm, rich, full, and glow- 
ing utterance of what had now for some time been 
gathering volume and momentum in his mind and 
heart — dwelt with rhetorical vehemence on the 
permanence of Christianity as embodied in the 
teachings of Jesus : — 

That pure ideal religion which Jesus saw on the 
mount of his vision, and lived out in the lowly life of 
a Galilean peasant ; which transforms his cross into an 
emblem of all that is holiest on earth; which makes 
sacred the ground he trod, and is dearest to the best of 
men, most true to what is truest in them — cannot pass 
away. Let men improve never so far in civilization, or 
soar never so high on the wings of religion and love, 
they can never outgo the flight of truth and Christian- 
ity. It will always be above them. It is as if we were 
to fly towards a star, which becomes larger and more 
bright the nearer we approach, till we enter and are 
absorbed in its glory. 

This theme recurs many times throughout the 
sermon in various forms, but never with uncertain 


stress. Modern orthodoxy might go to this sermon 
for more eloquent expression of its confidence in 
the permanent influence of Jesus than its own 
preachers often frame, while few modern Unitari- 
ans, even the most conservative, would be able to 
qualify Jesus and Christianity in terms so gener- 
ous as these, and every negative conclusion has 
long since become a commonplace with them, the 
parts touching the Bible equally so with orthodox 
scholars, and laymen who are well informed. It 
is difficult to reconstruct the Unitarian mind that 
was so shocked and terrified by this enthusiastic 
affirmation of the permanence of essential Chris- 
tianity and the greatness of the spiritual in man. 
It was, in fact, certain incidental expressions that 
gave the most offense. Jesus was said to have 
founded no institutions ; for the miraculous author- 
ship of the Bible there was "no shadow of evi- 
dence." But, probably, the most offensive utter- 
ance was this : " If it could be proved that Jesus 
of Nazareth had never lived, still Christianity 
would stand firm and fear no evil." Long before 
his death Mr. Beecher could say this to his Brook- 
lyn congregation and not one incredulous eyebrow 
stir. Parker followed it with words that were a 
serious qualification: " But we should lose — oh, 
irreparable loss ! — the example of that character, 
so beautiful, so divine, that no human genius could 
have conceived it." At the same time the pure 
humanity of Jesus was not disguised : " Measure 
him by the world's greatest sons — how poor they 


are ! Try him by the best of men — how little 
and low they appear ! Exalt him as much as we 
may, we shall yet, perhaps, come short of the mark. 
But still was he not our brother, the son of man, 
as we are ; the Son of God, like ourselves ? " In 
a single passage, and quite unrelatedly, the ideal 
Christ " whom we form in our hearts " is held 
superior to the historic Christ, " so blameless and 
so beautiful." In general there is a complete 
identification of the teachings of Jesus with abso- 
lute religion. These " can no more perish than 
the stars he wiped out of the sky. The truths he 
taught ; his doctrines respecting man and God ; 
the relation between man and man, and man and 
God, with the duties that grow out of that relation 
— - are always the same, and can never change till 
man ceases to be man, and creation vanishes into 
nothing." Christianity he said " is absolute, pure 
morality; absolute, pure religion." The name 
would be as imperishable as the thing. " Given 
in mockery, it will last till the world go down." 

There was much here that was not carefully con- 
sidered ; much that Parker would himself revise 
as time went on, and he came to see that Jesus 
published doctrines and precepts that he (Parker) 
could not accept as practicable or true. There 
was an unwarranted depreciation of humanity in 
his idea that Christianity had contracted " nothing 
but stain " from its historical environment ; an 
implicit denial of God's perpetual immanence and 
operation. Even the central thought — that the 


value of Christianity is to be sought in its abstrac- 
tion of those elements that are common to all 
religions — is one that will not bear examination. 
So measured, every religion would be as absolute 
as Christianity, the lowest equally with the high- 
est. At its best, however, Parker's Absolute Reli- 
gion was not a thin abstraction, but a concrete 
reality, to which the ethnic and other religions 
approximated in various degrees. The general 
opinion that the sermon was from start to finish 
an attack on Christianity as a supernatural religion 
is without any warrant in the sermon itself. A 
more positive utterance never fell from human 
lips. So much as was negative was purely inci- 
dental. Apparently Parker had not yet finally 
parted with the miracles as actual occurrences, 
though he may have come to regard them, with 
Dr. Furness, as natural events. But the drift of 
the sermon was that, if supernatural, they were 
no longer essential to the support of Christianity, 
whatever may have been their original efficacy. 
The grand contention of the sermon was that 
Christianity, as the absolute religion, shines by its 
own light, is its own evidence, needs no miraculous 
support. It was unmistakably a flat and fearless 
contradiction of Mr. Andrews Norton's "Latest 
Form of Infidelity." There the contention was that 
no man is a Christian who does not believe in the 
Christian truth because of some miraculous attesta- 
tion. Parker's denial was implicit. Mr. Norton's 
doctrine was excluded by a larger affirmation. The 


miracles were barely mentioned in Parker's ser- 
mon, but the implication was unmistakable that to 
believe in Christian truth only as miraculously 
attested was to do it great irreverence. That he 
considered miraculous attestation of it as unneces- 
sary as of the brightness of the noonday sun or 
" the beseeching beauty of the world " was also 
very plain. And, strange as it may seem, it was 
this spontaneous, free, and joyous acceptance of 
Jesus and Christianity for their intrinsic excel- 
lence, and that alone, that was the unpardonable 
sin of the South Boston sermon in many alienated 
and some friendly eyes. 



The South Boston sermon does not seem to 
have awakened any immediate tumult of disclaim 
on the part of those Unitarian ministers who as- 
sisted Parker at the ordination or sat as listeners 
in the pews. 1 It is remembered that somebody 
went out during the sermon, but, as Weiss sug- 
gests, that may have been because the ventilation 
of the church was unsatisfactory ; not because Mr. 
Parker was ventilating novel opinions but too well. 
It would appear that the first to take alarm, after 
some orthodox warning, were those who agreed 
substantially with the preacher, but were not pre- 
pared to give their esoteric views an exoteric appli- 
cation. It was not long, however, before a con- 
siderable pack of heresy hunters was in full cry. 2 

1 The first formal protest came from orthodox ministers who 
were present, one demanding his arrest for blasphemy. A Uni- 
tarian layman wrote in the Boston Courier, " I would rather see 
every Unitarian congregation in our land dissolved and every one 
of our churches occupied by other denominations or razed to 
the ground than to assist in placing a man entertaining the 
sentiments of Theodore Parker in one of our pulpits." 

2 In his Reminiscences, p. 199, Dr. S. K. Lothrop claims, " I 
was among the first of Unitarian clergymen, publicly over my 
own name, to put myself in opposition to Mr. Parker's ration- 
alism, and insist that it was not Christian ground." 


Orthodox preachers and journals were, of course, 
delighted with a turn of affairs which exposed the 
Unitarian flank to their assault and enabled them 
to ask "What did we tell you?" — a question 
never asked without serene self-satisfaction. Had 
they not prophesied that Unitarians would go on 
from bad to worse ? The " Christian Register " and 
" Christian Examiner," the Unitarian weekly and 
quarterly, cultivated a generous spirit, and yet 
many bitter things were said. The secular papers 
could not be expected to forego so good an oppor- 
tunity, and they improved it with that infallibility 
which is generally accorded them even where it is 
not assumed. Their harsher judgments were repu- 
diated manfully by a few who had much or little 
to lose by standing upon Parker's side, some of 
them explaining away his meaning in a manner 
more creditable to their hearts than to their heads. 
The fears of the highly respectable Unitarian lay- 
men, such as Mr. Frothingham describes so aptly 
in his " Boston Unitarianism," were naturally ex- 
cited, and the impact of their timidity on the local 
clergy made itself felt. Exchanges for which Par- 
ker had arranged were canceled and those solicited 
were refused, until he could count the remnant on 
his fingers without counting any finger twice. Even 
this list as it stands in his journal for December 
22, 1842, has several question marks against the 
individual names. 

" Like gold nails in temples to hang trophies 
on " are those unquestioned : Briggs, Russell, Pier- 


pont, Sargent, Samuel Bobbins, Stetson, Shack- 
ford, and (later) Freeman Clarke. Some of these 
meant more to him because the adhesion was in 
spite of difference as to the worth or wisdom of 
the obnoxious sermon ; and quite as precious was 
the kindness of others who could not conscien- 
tiously ally themselves with such a dangerous her- 
etic as they considered him to be. The personal 
kindness of some of these men could not have been 
more lovely than it was. To do as they were con- 
strained to hurt them quite as much as it did him. 
He appreciated their position and the goodness of 
their hearts. To people made of sterner stuff it 
may appear that he made a great ado about no- 
thing, — the loss here and there of formal fellow- 
ship. In many cases he lost more than this from 
" greetings where no kindness was," but studious 
neglect. Sometimes he made fun of the situation 
in his journal, as after a visit to Mr. Norton, but 
this salve was not sufficient for the wound. He 
lived so much in his affections that a thrust which 
would have been a pin-prick to another was a stab 
to him. 

He expected the general hurly-burly to stir up 
opposition against him in his West Roxbury par- 
ish, but there it did no appreciable harm. A good 
deacon was n't sure about some things, but he was 
very sure of him : he preached the central verities, 
and there was nothing the matter with his life. 
Farmers with whom he had sat on the barn floor, 
helping them shell their beans, who had helped 


him in his ploughing and planting, and women 
whose children he had hugged and kissed with 
human, not parochial, admiration, were not going 
to turn against him because he said right out what 
he thought about the Bible and the church and the 
popular theology. Then, too, the leading spirits 
in his society were forward-looking men and wo- 
men, appreciating the fact that their young minis- 
ter was no average man, but one of very great 
ability, with a prophetic soul. They found his 
name, Theodore, significant of what he was to 

Another consolation was the burden under which 
he grew from day to day, — the work of his min- 
istry, that on the De Wette " Introduction," and, 
in the winter of 1841-42, that involved in the 
preparation of a series of lectures which, in the 
spring of 1842, rounded into the book, " A Dis- 
course of Matters pertaining to Religion." The 
invitation to give the lectures he at first refused, 
but it was so earnest and sincere that he repented 
of his refusal and consented to make the attempt. 
They were delivered in the old Masonic Temple, 
not a place suggesting the exposure of "the mys- 
tery of godliness " to the clearest light, yet an- 
swering well enough but for the contracted space, 
crowded by those who came to hear the heretic 
who had been advertised so well by those who 
had called him " blasphemer," " infidel," and 
" atheist." With those who dearly loved the crash 
of broken idols came ingenuous youths and older 


people hungering for some better bread than could 
be made of the wheat grown on the worn-out soil 
of the traditional theology. To many of his hear- 
ers he must have seemed to offer in himself con- 
vincing argument that what he taught could not 
be true, so evidently was there here, for them, 
another "man from heaven," speaking in super- 
natural tones. 

The book which gathered up the lectures, some- 
what enlarged, and with a wealth of learned notes 
contrasting curiously with the simplicity of the 
principal matter, was the best book that Parker 
ever made. Though in Miss Cobbe's edition there 
are fourteen volumes of his works, and these do 
not include " De Wette," he published in his life- 
time but three real books, with some half dozen 
volumes of " Critical and Miscellaneous Writings " 
and " Speeches and Addresses," with a story, " Two 
Christmas Celebrations," and his " Trial and De- 
fence." The real books were the "Discourse," 
" Ten Sermons of Religion," and " Theism, Athe- 
ism, and the Popular Theology ; " and the greatest 
of these was the "Discourse." The "Ten Ser- 
mons " has enjoyed more popular esteem ; but it is 
less vivid and spontaneous ; it is oftener disfigured 
by the controversial note ; and this is yet truer of 
the " Sermons of Theism," which is a hard and 
gritty book in comparison with either of the others. 
Of the " Discourse " Parker wrote in his journal, 
May 6, 1842: — 


I have worked on my "Discourse" from fifty to 
eighty hours a week for several weeks. To-day I re- 
ceived the last proof-sheet, p. 504 and the pp. viii of 
Preface, etc. It fills me with sadness to end what has 
been so dear to me. Well, the result lies with God. 
May it do a good work ! I fear not, but hope. There 
may be a noise about it ; it will not surprise me. But 
I think it will do a good work for the world. God 
bless the good in it, and destroy the bad ! This is my 

The anticipations and the hopes so piously re- 
corded have had various realization and defeat. 
There was abundant noise about it. It has done 
a good work for many, but not the work which 
should have been done by a book which is one of 
the most religious that has ever issued from a 
human soul. The nipping air of theological con- 
troversy killed in the blossom much of its proper 
fruit, and because some of the knowledge in it 
has vanished away, it has been too hastily inferred 
that its unfailing love has suffered in like manner 
and degree. 

Howsoever time has used it, it remains a book 
of prophecy and psalm. What is true of his 
whole output is preeminently true of this particu- 
lar book : " his fragmentary denials were but the 
floating drift upon the deep, swift current of his 
mighty faith." l Its glowing tribute to the Bible 
has been quoted by orthodox preachers, and their 
hearers have gone home remembering that glorious 

1 Rev. A. D. Mayo. 


passage and forgetting all the rest. Never before 
had the human excellence of Jesus been made so 
real, so beautiful. But, if I should ever meet a 
person doubting that Theodore Parker had a genius 
for religion, I should ask him to read the chapter 
called " Solid Piety." How it soars and sings ! 
Never shall I forget how all things were made new 
for me by my first reading of this book in 1857, 1 
Parker himself having directed me to it in answer 
to a letter I had written him. I had never dreamed 
that the great things of religion could be made so 
warm and pleasant, so tender and appealing, to my 
young heart and mind. 

There are many stories of the happy influence 
it had upon unpromising material. When a set of 
Western roughs resolved to turn out the Yankee 
schoolmistress, coming upon this book they read 
it to tatters, and obtained grace thereby to defend 
her against all comers. Mr. Frothingham tells of 
a Western judge who put it into the hands of a 
thoughtless youth who was looking about for a 
pleasant Sunday time-killer. His experience with 
religious books had not been agreeable, but "a 
religious book like that he had never seen. If 
that was religion he liked it." It made a man of 
him, useful and benevolent. The judge had finally 

1 A friend has just sent me (March 14, 1899), the book I bor- 
rowed from her husband, William B. Brown, of Marblehead, 
Mass., in 1857, to be henceforth my own. To re-read it in this 
fine old octavo, wherein the large and open type seconds the 
thought conveyed, has been a satisfaction bringing- many vanished 
things to mind. 


given him the book, because like the Spanish biblio- 
phile who murdered the purchaser of some dar- 
ling book, the young man could not part with it. 
Years afterward they met and, in answer to the 
judge's inquiries, the younger man answered joy- 
fully that he still had the book, now bound in good 
leather, it having been worn out of its first covers 
with much reading and lending. Had Parker 
known of this he might have said, as Dr. Chan- 
ning, when some wage-earner wrote to him grate- 
fully from Europe, "This is a thousand times 
better than fame ! " 

Parker had need of all the kind and grateful 
words that came to him about the book, so many 
came to him of another sort. It was the South 
Boston sermon "writ large." Opening with an 
account of the philosophy of religion, it first dealt 
with the psychology of religion as the Sentiment, 
the Idea, and the Conception of God, and with Fe- 
tichism, Polytheism, and Monotheism as successive 
progressive forms ; it next proceeded to questions 
of God's relation to nature and to man ; Miracles 
and Inspiration here passing in review. Given 
good courage, and nothing so hurries an advancing 
column as a brisk fire in front, and Parker arrived 
at sound conclusions much sooner in the teeth of 
vigorous opposition than he would otherwise have 
done. They were, as regards miracles, the conclu- 
sions of Huxley forty years in advance of Hux- 
ley's formulation. Antecedently to experience, — 
this was the doctrine, — one thing is as possible as 


another ; but the more stable our experience of 
any kind of thing, the more evidence we must 
demand for anything affronting this experience : 
so few persons have risen from the dead at any 
time that the evidence for any particular resurrec- 
tion should be immense. It is not a little won- 
derful that Parker, a Transcendentalist after the 
strictest manner of the sect, should have placed 
himself with absolute clearness and simplicity on 
the scientific ground. From then till now Unita- 
rian progress has been along the line illuminated by 
his beacon light. The great headlands of science, 
then vague on the horizon, have since loomed up 
majestic in the morning air. Some indeed have 
steered by the pleasing fiction which beguiled Par- 
ker for a time, that miracle is the illustration of a 
higher law than that habitually known ; but so 
many have been wrecked upon this course that it 
is getting advertised as dangerous even on theo- 
logical charts, and on that of science its name 
henceforth will be that which Huxley gave it — 
" pseudo-science." 

To continue our account of the " Discourse " — 
following the parts already named were three of 
historical and critical theology on Jesus of Naza- 
reth, the Bible, and the Church. Under the first 
of these heads the question of miracle was resumed 
for more particular consideration. His favorite 
aphorism, " Truth for Authority, not Authority 
for Truth," which Lucretia Mott adopted as her 
own motto par excellence and loved to write upon 


her photographs and whenever her autograph was 
requested, — this was developed at some length. 
The essential character of Christianity was found, 
not in its originality but in its being a method of 
right living and in its emphasis upon a dutiful and 
loving life. The orderly procedure of the book 
is evident from the analytical table of contents 
made by William C. Gannett for Putnam's edition 
of 1877, a piece of work that would have delighted 
Parker's sense of careful definition and well-ordered 
argument. The notes multiply ten and twenty fold 
the impression of the author's learning given by 
the body of the book, this also being strong. Some 
of the keener thrusts at the growing opposition to 
his teachings are reserved for these ; and some of 
the more remarkable anticipations of the course 
of critical and theological development since 1842. 
When Vatke's views are referred to as " valuable 
but one-sided " he little knew how germinal they 
were of that reconstruction of the Bible which has 
been effected by Kuenen and Wellhausen. Yet 
he anticipated Kuenen's central idea, when he 
wrote : " The testimony of the prophets respect- 
ing the early state of the nation is more valuable 
than that of the Pentateuch itself." His resolu- 
tion of the world's earlier religious histories into 
the three stages, Fetichism, Polytheism, Monothe- 
ism, is too delightfully simple to have withstood the 
shock of Spencer's ghosts and all the totems and 
what not that have been marshaled by the anthro- 
pologists during the last half century. But it is 


still roughly true, though by Fetichism we must 
understand an exceedingly complex variety of early 
superstitions, often one and the same cult confus- 
ing many different and even contradictory forms. 
In general the wonder is that Parker's learning 
stands so well the tests of time and tide. That it 
does so is partly owing to the courage which ac- 
cepted views far in advance of those generally cur- 
rent in his time ; but is more because his sturdy 
common sense was an Ithuriel spear testing the vir- 
tue of innumerable theories that were presented by 
his reading to his mind, and approving what had 
in it the best promise of some enduring quality. 

Far more astonishing than the learning apparent 
in and suggested by the notes was, and still is, the 
freedom of the main body of the book from the 
infection of their bookishness. There he left his 
many-colored coat of learning, as Joseph his coat 
in the story, and escaped into the freedom of a 
style shaped not on books but on the simplicities 
of daily life, on loving reminiscences of farm and 
field, upon the language of his father's honest 
thought, his mother's homely prayers. The learn- 
ing was there also, but so transfused into his per- 
sonal life as to be no one's but his own when it 
came welling to his lips and streaming from his 
pen. The most unlearned preacher in Boston or 
New England was not so gifted in the common 
speech of men as he. 

The book renewed the excitement caused by the 
South Boston sermon. Martineau has written that 


the suppressed matter of every religious contro- 
versy is the real ground of controversy. So was it 
here. So fought his opponents, not as one who 
beateth the air. The ostensible ground of disa- 
greement was whether a man could be a Christian 
who believed the truths of Christianity for any 
other reason than because they were approved by 
signs and wonders. The real ground was much 
wider than this, or than that which divided Luther 
from the Pope. It has been fought over many 
times since 1842. Even as I write these pages 
comes an article in the " New World," March, 
1899, on " The Eeconstructed Church," by Rev. 
Charles F. Dole. Speaking of the distinction 
between progressive Unitarianism and progressive 
Orthodoxy, he says, " The distinction is between 
any form of religion, however refined, which binds 
the spirits of men to the authority of the past and 
that religion which believes in the living and pre- 
sent God, incarnate forever in human conscience 
and love." Now the distinction between Parker 
and his critics was exactly this ; if dimly recog- 
nized, yet profoundly felt. It is true that Parker 
identified Christianity with his Absolute Religion, 
meaning by this Religion in its essential, universal 
character. The inexpugnable fact remained that 
Absolute Religion was his standard of measure- 
ment. He accepted Christianity as justified by that 
and not that as justified by Christianity. The free 
soul was his ultimate standard, and not any tradi- 
tional authority vested in Bible, Church, or Christ. 


It was, then, no little crevice which divided 
Parker from the conservative Unitarians of his 
time. The breach was wide and deep : on the one 
side a venerable and supernatural Authority ; on 
the other Truth, as the most characteristic product 
of man's natural intelligence and subject to indefi- 
nite variation and development from age to age. 
Here was a right-about-face as complete as that 
of the Copernican from the Ptolemaic astronomy. 
Those who have effected it with unqualified sim- 
plicity are still few, though Parker has been dead 
these forty years. The mark of his high calling 
is still a fearful one for the majority, and many 
and ingenious are the devices by which its exigency 
is disguised, if haply something short of that may 
seem to answer quite as well. 

Ever since the Norton address of 1839 the Bos- 
ton Association of Unitarian ministers — not to 
be confounded with the American Unitarian Asso- 
ciation, as it has been too often in relation to this 
business — had from time to time reverted to the 
question, " Can a believer in Christianity who re- 
jects the miracles or does not believe because of 
them be considered a Christian? " At the meeting 
of December 2, 1841, Dr. Parkman had tried to 
relieve the tension with a joke, saying that he 
should not care to exchange with " a man who had 
an unfortunate twist in his face and would make 
the people laugh, especially in devotion." Later 
he grew more serious and said, " if one member of 
the Association entertained and preached opinions 


distasteful to the majority of his brethren in the 
Association it was his duty to withdraw." This 
line of attack was followed in all the subsequent 
proceedings. The situation was not unlike that of 
a meeting of rival Quakers disputing the posses- 
sion of a meeting-house : No blows were to be 
struck, but the Hicksites were to be crowded out. 
Parker declining to commit hara-kiri, it was from 
time to time suggested that the Association should 
do that, and in its self-destruction whelm the un- 
welcome heretic ; but there were those who thought 
that such a proceeding might be interpreted in the 
community as Parker's victory ; and these pre- 
vailed. A little further on the Thursday lecture 
did lay violent hands upon itself to prevent him 
from ever preaching it again. 

There was one meeting of the Association which 
stands out from all others in the history of Par- 
ker's difference with his Unitarian brethren. It 
was held January 23, 1843, and Parker's own ac- 
count of it covers a dozen *closely written foolscap 
pages of his journal, with the heading, " This to 
be printed in 1899 as a memorial of the 19th cen- 
tury." But nearly all of it appeared in Weiss's 
book, — for the names of the different speakers 
dashes being substituted, — while Mr. Frothingham 
gave a careful summary. His father, Dr. N. L. 
Frothingham, presided at the meeting, to which 
Parker had been specially invited, some previous 
discussions having been devoted to him and his 
book in his absence. This the higher-minded did 


not like. The chairman denounced the book as 
u vehemently deistical " and " subversive of Chris- 
tianity as a particular religion." But the book 
was not the only stone of stumbling. Another 
was an article which Parker had written in the 
"Dial" of October, 1842, upon the Hollis Street 
Council which had sat upon the trouble between 
Rev. John Pierpont and his people relative to his 
preaching against " Rum-making, Rum-selling, and 
Rum-drinking," and thereby giving some of his 
most influential parishioners distinct offense. As 
the article stands in the " Dial" it is preluded by 
Thoreau's " Rumors from an iEolian Harp." Its 
own notes are those of a trumpet giving no uncer- 
tain sound. The clerical members of the council 
were charged with base subserviency to the liquor 
interest and of unfairness to the accused. The 
result in council was characterized as a " Jesuitical 
document," an expression which gave much offense. 
Mr. E. S. Gannett (made " Dr." the next summer) 
was, as a member of the council, much offended 
with the article, though he " had not read it care- 
fully," he " disliked it so much." He would freely, 
and from his heart, forgive Parker, "though he 
could never take him cordially by the hand again." 
How characteristic this of Dr. Gannett, who said 
many things in haste which he repented at leisure, 
but could no more have been consciously a party 
to the injustice imputed to the Hollis Street Coun- 
cil by Mr. Parker than Parker himself ! 

Some things in Pierpont which Parker felt that 


he " must censure " are amusing for their naive 
unconsciousness of his own manner, so sharp al- 
ready that Dr. Parkman told him, " You dip your 
pen in gall and your razor in oil." (This at the 
meeting of the Association which I shall presently 
resume.) Parker said of Pierpont, " He allows 
himself an indignant eloquence which were better 
let alone ; he gives blow for blow and scorn for 
scorn ; he does not speak gently." Such criticisms 
of the proverbial kettle on the complexion of a 
fraternal pot were inventions that must have re- 
turned to plague the inventor many times as he 
went his controversial way. 

From the Hollis Street Council the discussion 
at the Association meeting came back to the book, 
Mr. Gannett saying that miracles and the author- 
ity of Christ attested by them must be added to 
absolute religion to make Christianity. Parker 
replied that Christianity was love to God and man, 
and that miracles could not make this more or less 
important. He had no philosophical objections to 
miracles as uncommon events, " but only demanded 
more evidence than for a common event." 

Then some one said, that was enough ; it was plain I 
was no Christian, for Christianity was a supernatural 
and miraculous revelation. To which I said, that it 
might be but it had not been shown to be such. It 
seemed preposterous to make miracles the Shibboleth of 
Christianity. . . . Nobody accused me of preaching 
less than absolute morality and religion. If they could 
exist without Christianity what was the use of Chris- 


tianity ? So I thought it a mistake to make absolute 
religion one thing and Christianity something different. 

Chandler Robbins said, " Since Mr. Parker finds 
the feeling in respect to him is so general, I think 
it is his duty to withdraw from the Association." 
Others spoke to the same purpose. He hurt their 
usefulness, compromised their position, etc. "I 
told them that if my personal feelings alone were 
concerned I would gladly do so, but as the right 
of free inquiry was concerned, while the world 
standeth I will never do so." Dr. Frothingham 
said if it was a meeting for free inquiry he should 
very soon withdraw. He also said, " The differ* 
ence between Trinitarians and Unitarians is a dif- 
ference in Christianity ; the difference between 
Mr. Parker and the Association is a difference 
between no Christianity and Christianity." Mr. 
Gannett protested that they did not deny that Mr. 
Parker was a Christian man, but only that his book 
was a Christian book, denying, as it did, the mir- 
acles. There was much more to the same effect. 1 
At last Bartol (Cyrus A.) came to the defense of 
Parker's sincerity, which some had called in ques- 

1 Dr. Dewey, at another meeting, while insisting- that the name 
Christian should be denied to " Rationalists " of Parker's kind, 
confessed that he preferred Rationalism to Calvinism. To which 
Dr. George Putnam, one of those who had most grievously disap- 
pointed Parker's hopes of personal fidelity, pertinently answered, 
" Then you would call Christianity what you think further from 
true Christianity than Rationalism." The differences in which 
Parker's opponents were involved are very interesting and in- 
structive. They show how hard it was for Unitarians to attain 
to even an approximate doctrinal uniformity. 


tion, and " spoke many words of moral approba- 
tion ; so, likewise, did Gannett, at length, and with 
his usual earnestness." Chandler Bobbins struck 
the same note. Whereupon Parker, who had borne 
the brunt of accusation very well, broke down quite 
shamefully and left the room in tears. Dr. Froth- 
ingham, sincerely kind, if not morally consistent, 
met him in the entry, shook hands with him, and 
hoped he would come and see him. 

It was a man of thirty-two summers who had 
to answer for the faith that was in him in this try- 
ing manner before the grave and venerable signiors 
of the church and one "fellow of infinite jest." 
We shall entirely fail to comprehend the strength 
of his feelings, and their frequent bitterness, if we 
do not attend to his persuasion that some, if not 
many, of his accusers were at heart quite as hereti- 
cal as he. It may have seemed very strange to 
him that his acceptance of Christianity for its own 
sake was less satisfactory to his brethren than his 
acceptance of it on account of the miracles would 
have been. That they should refuse him their fel- 
lowship on this ground may have seemed yet more 
strange to him. But what he could not under- 
stand at all, and what, as time went on, gave the 
keen edge of satire to his speech, was the fact that 
some of his severest critics had long held opinions 
quite as novel as his own, unqualified by his faith 
in absolute religion, and in Christianity as iden- 
tical with that. " The most forward," says Mr. 
Frothingham, " made most haste to retrace their 
steps ; " and he goes on : — 


One gentleman, a doctor of divinity, but a man of 
letters rather than a theologian, a radical in literature, 
but a conservative in sentiment and usage, who once 
had said to him, that if Strauss had written a small 
book, in a single volume, in a popular style, he would 
have about done the thing for historical Christianity ; 
who on another occasion, when asked how he reconciled 
the conflicting accounts in the four Gospels, replied, 
" I don't try to reconcile them ; you can't tell where 
fact begins or fiction ends, nor whether there is any fact 
at all at the bottom ; " who on yet another occasion, 
when asked what he thought of Cousin's "Atheism," 
answered, " I don't know whether he believes in a God 
or not, but I know that he has the ethical and religious 
spirit of Christianity, and is a Christian ; " who yet once 
more, when challenged on his belief in the prophecies 
of the Old Testament, responded that he did believe 
them true prophecies, but only as every imperfect thing 
is a true prophecy of the perfect, — this gentleman, when 
the question was no longer one of literature, but one of 
custom and institution and social tranquillity, left the 
ranks of the pioneers, and fell back upon the old guard. 
He had gone out for a pleasant reconnoitre ; he was not 
prepared for battle. 

The excellent divine so carefully delineated and 
reported in this passage was no other than Dr. 
Frothingham, father of the Eev. Octavius, whose 
filial piety did not exceed his love of even justice 
between man and man. Let the reader compare 
Dr. Frothingham's opinions as reported by his son 
with his attitude at the Association meeting and 
the difference will be easily discerned. Much of 
the same kind is set down in Parker's journal, 


making it plain how much this aspect of the situa- 
tion wrought upon his mind. Dr. Frothingham, 
as he remembered, had said that Prophecy and 
Miracles were Jachin and Boaz : Dr. Noyes had 
destroyed Jachin and Ripley Boaz ; yet Christian- 
ity stood. Here was precisely the doctrine of the 
South Boston sermon and the " Discourse," yet 
Dr. Frothingham was conspicuous among those 
who were anxious to relieve the Association of the 
odium of Parker's membership. 

It is possible, and even probable, that Parker 
exaggerated the amount of double-mindedness in 
which his professional comrades were involved. 
Certain it is that some of these differed from him 
widely, and yet, though constrained to shut him 
from their pulpits, had real kindness for him in 
their hearts. No letter of mere intellectual agree- 
ment could have been so pleasant to his manly 
heart as one written him by Chandler Bobbins a 
day or two after the Association meeting. Parker 
wrote Dr. Francis : — 

Better men have found less sympathy than I. I do 
not care a rush for what men who differ from me do or 
say. but it has grieved me a little, I confess it, to see 
men who think as I do of the historical and mythical 
matter connected with Christianity, who yet take the 
stand some of them take. It is like opening a drawer 
where you expect to find money and discovering that the 
gold is gone ; only the copper is left. 

When he wrote this, in February, 1842, he did 
not expect that Dr. Francis would ever come under 


the condemnation of his parable. But a little later, 
when Dr. Francis was to be made a Professor in 
the Divinity School, he was advised by Dr. Walker 1 
to cancel an engagement to exchange with Parker, 
and he did so. The next year, when Parker was 
going to Europe, Dr. Francis drew back from sup- 
plying his pulpit in his absence and Parker wrote 
him down " a rotten stick." Eventually the good, 
soft-fibred man somehow took courage, — his sister 2 
may have lent him some of hers, — and he did the 
manly thing, to Parker's great delight, and ours ; 
for otherwise we might have missed the letters to 
Dr. Francis which are our best account of Parker's 
European doings. Some of his letters to Dr. Fran- 
cis in the summer of 1842, when there was worse 
to come, reveal the workings of his mind. 

June 24. The experience of the last twelve months 
shows me what I am to expect of the next twelve years. 
I have no fellowship from the other clergy : no one that 
helped in my ordination will now exchange ministerial 
courtesies with me. Only one or two of the Boston As- 
sociation, and perhaps one or two out of it, will have 
any ministerial intercourse with me. " They that are 
younger than I have me in derision." ... I must con- 
fess that I am disappointed in the ministers — the Uni- 
tarian ministers. I once thought them noble ; that they 
would be true to an ideal principle of right. I find that 
no body of men was ever more completely sold to the 
sense of expediency. . . . 

1 Who had hitherto agreed with Parker that those who thought 
as he did ought to stand by him. 

2 Lydia Maria Child. 


Now, I am not going to sit down tamely, and be driven 
out of my position by the opposition of some, and the 
neglect of others, whose conduct shows that they have 
no love of freedom except for themselves, — to sail with 
the popular wind and tide. I shall do this when obliged 
to desert the pulpit because a free voice and a free heart 
cannot be in " that bad eminence." I mean to live at 
Spring Street, perhaps with Ripley [at Brook Farm]. 
I will study seven or eight months of the year ; and, 
four or five months, I will go about and preach and lec- 
ture in the city and glen, by the roadside and fieldside, 
and wherever men and women may be found. I will 
go eastward and westward, and northward and south- 
ward, and make the land ring ; and if this New Eng_ 
land theology, that cramps the intellect and palsies the 
soul of us, does not come to the ground, then it shall be 
because it has more truth in it than I have ever found. 

July 25. I see few persons, especially scholarly folk. 
But, after all, books, nature, and God afford the only soci- 
ety you can always have and on reasonable terms. . . . 
You will go to Cambridge soon, and I rejoice in your 
prospect of long usefulness and the society of men that 
will appreciate your worth and sympathize with your 

In the event Dr. Francis was isolated rather than 
befriended by his reading habit, which, moreover, 
got the better of his personal intelligence, so that 
he came to be more of a satellite reflecting others' 
thoughts than a star shining with his own. But 
his influence (for twenty-two years) was all for 
breadth of outlook and for openness of mind. 
Parker was determined not to add anything to the 
difficulties of his new position. 


Aug. 9. Now I will speak plainly. I do not wish 
to stand in your way. I will not knowingly bring on 
you the censure (or suspicion) of your brethren. There- 
fore, after you go to Cambridge, I don't see how I can 
visit you as heretofore. ... I might, like Nicodemus, 
come to you by night, privately, but it is not my way. 

Sept. 25. There was a time when sound scholar- 
ship was deemed essential to a Unitarian minister. I 
think the denomination has more first-rate scholars from 
the age of Frothingham down to that of Upham than 
any other denomination, in proportion to our numbers. 
[Frothingham, Noyes, Lamson, and Francis were his 
" big four." His not adding Norton was a momentary 
whim or slip.] But among the younger men there is a 
most woeful neglect of sound study of all kinds. . . . 
Now it seems to me that the denomination has a right 
to expect the first scholar that has been Professor of 
Theology since Norton to reform this evil. . . . Either 
1, all study of theology must be abandoned ; or 2, it 
must be studied in a method and with a thoroughness 
and to an extent which bears some resemblance to the 
state of other sciences. It is contemptible at present 
in comparison with astronomy, geology, or even the pre- 
tended science of phrenology. ... Is not theology in 
about the same state with us that natural philosophy 
was in before Bacon ? 

I hope you will excuse me for what may seem very 
impertinent and the intrusion of a boy's advice. 

October 2, 1842, Dr. Channing died in Benning- 
ton, Vt., only two months after his great anti- 
slavery address in Lenox, Mass., on the anniver- 
sary of the West India Emancipation. He was 
only sixty-two years old. Parker wrote a friend, 


" You know, as all do, that no man in America has 
done so much to promote truth, virtue and religion 
as he. I feel that I have lost one of the most valu- 
able friends I ever had. His mind was wide and 
his heart was wider yet." He wrote in his jour- 
nal, " No man since Washington has done so much 
to elevate his country. . . . Why could not I have 
died in his stead ? " 

He attended the funeral October 7th, and noted 
the undesirable conjunction in the service of two 
personal enemies and two others differing heaven- 
wide from the Doctor in their way of thought. In 
the church-porch one saint was heard saying to 
another " Well, Dr. Channing is gone," and the 
other replying " Yes, and much trouble has he given 
us." Parker had written of the Unitarians as be- 
ing divided into parties and of Dr. Channing as 
being the head of the liberals ; the other headless. 
Had the liberal party not lost its head Parker's ex- 
perience might not have been so tragical. Chan- 
ning had lamented the growth of " a Unitarian 
orthodoxy " and " a swollen way of talking about 
Jesus ; " he had deprecated the severe censure 
meted out to a minister who could not conscientiously 
administer " the sacrament ; " he had " responded 
entirely to the great idea of the [South Boston] dis- 
course — the immutableness of Christian truth," 
and was " moved by Parker's strong, heartfelt utter- 
ance of it," while he " grieved that he did not give 
some clear, direct expression to his belief in the 
Christian miracles." He had also written, "As to 


Mr. Parker, I wish him to preach what he thoroughly 
believes and feels. . . . Let the full heart pour 
itself forth." But it was in the shadow of Chan- 
ning' s recent death that the Boston Association 
had summoned Parker to its assembly and endeav- 
ored to convince him of his duty to resign his 
membership, if haply, by so doing, he might relieve 
the Association from all appearance of complicity 
with his heresies. Parker's memorial sermon 1 
upon Channing was no mere eulogy but a careful 
and sincere appreciation of the man's life and work, 
foreboding the much greater things he would do in 
this kind when such great men as John Quincy 
Adams and Daniel Webster had seen the last of 

The reviews of the " Discourse of Matters per- 
taining to Religion " were numerous but mainly 
trivial, holding up its negative traits to ridicule or 
reprobation while missing quite or altogether the 
great tide of affirmation that inundated every page. 2 
The first review in the " Examiner " was by Rev. 
John H. Morison. It differed squarely from Par- 

1 Not to be confounded with his more elaborate estimate re- 
viewing the Life of Dr. Channing, by his nephew, William Henry 
Channing, which appeared in 1848. 

2 Orestes Brownson, a ship of many different flags, first one 
and then another, now drawing near his final anchorage in the port 
of Rome, discharged a full broadside ; i. e., devoted to Parker's 
book a whole number of the Boston Quarterly Review. One of the 
reviews which Parker particularly prized was written by the Rev. 
Noah Porter, the orthodox preacher and scholar who was after- 
ward President of Yale College. It was the beginning of a corre- 
spondence and friendship between the two men which lasted until 
Parker's death. 


ker's anti-supernaturalism, but said, " We do not 
feel called upon to cast him off or deny to him the 
Christian name." This, with a dozen other lines 
in cordial recognition of Parker's deep religious- 
ness, was cut out by the editors, but Mr. Morison, 
always kind and always meaning to be just, made 
good the loss by sending the too generous passage 
to the daily press, where, printed in italics, it got a 
hundred readers where the " Examiner " had one. 
Reviewing an article commenting severely upon 
Parker which had been rejected by the " Dial " and 
was then published by the author, James Freeman 
Clarke wrote of Parker's teachings as " the new 
gospel of shallow naturalism," a strange misnomer 
for a system which was nothing if not contemp- 
tuous of " naturalism," as generally named and 
known, and compact of spiritualism. Parker was 
further characterized by Mr. Clarke as " the ex- 
pounder of Negative Transcendentalism, as Mr. 
R. W. Emerson is the expounder of Positive Tran- 
scendentalism." The former could not consist with 
Christianity ; the latter could. But, in simple truth, 
while Parker did much more in the way of negative 
criticism than Emerson he was much more affirma- 
tive than the Concord seer of a definite Theism and 
of Immortality. Parker's method was denounced 
as " at once ignorant and presumptuous ; ignorant 
of the deep wants of the soul ; presumptuous in its 
contempt and self-confidence." It was not long 
before Mr. Clarke made large amends for this as- 
sault, which is painted in here as a background 


against which the great nobility of his conduct a 
little further on will come out in strong relief. 

One review of the book stood out from all 
others, preeminent for its ability and lofty praise, 
that of James Martineau in the " Prospective Re- 
view " of February, 1846 ; so late that many of 
the wounds of '42 and '43 had cicatrized — not 
healed — before this precious ointment came : 
" Honor then to the manly simplicity of Theodore 
Parker ! Perish who may among Scribes and 
Pharisees, — ' orthodox liars for God,' — he at least 
has delivered his soul." He touched the essential 
point of the whole controversy when he said, " To 
hear the boastful anger of our stout believers one 
would suppose that to take up our faith on too 
easy terms, and to be drawn into discipleship less 
by logic than by love, were the very Sin against 
the Holy Ghost." The position of Parker's con- 
servative critics was clearly stated and Martineau's 
dissent from it made perfectly plain, and pari 
passu his assent to Parker's central thought. At 
the same time various particulars were criticised — 
something that looked like Pantheism and a doc- 
trine of Inspiration that made of one kind God's 
immanence in matter and in man. The former 
Martineau was bound to overhaul by all the pre- 
dilections of his maturer thought. Because he had 
been a necessarian in his youth, after the manner 
of Priestley, he was ever after almost bitter in his 
assault on anything bearing either a real or formal 
resemblance to the doctrine of philosophical neces- 


sity or tending to deny that man, as a moral being, 
has "life in himself." But having sounded his 
alarm he made haste to add, " Indeed, the whole 
spirit and character of the book proclaim its affini- 
ties with a school quite remote from the Spinozis- 
tie." Parker's " Discourse " has been reviewed so 
adequately by no other hand from the time of its 
appearance until now. 1 

It must not be supposed that Parker's contro- 
versy with his critics occupied him exclusively. It 
took but little of his time. The Roxbury preach- 
ing went on and he did not often use it as a key 
for the unlocking of his heart. It kept close to 
simple themes ; overflowing with sweet piety and 
sound morality. Here and there a sermon, and 
oftener a passage, told, with volcanic energy, what 
fires were hid away under the flowery meadows 
and the fruitful fields. For every page of contro- 
versial matter the journal has a dozen of learned 
references to books on all manner of subjects. 
There are pages on Strauss, the Steam Engine, 
Catlin's "North American Indians," Prodigies, 
Birds, Animal Traits, the Political Affairs of the 
United States and ancient Egypt, with long lists 
of the Egyptian Kings. He was studying Bacon, 
Leibnitz and Plato ; resting himself from these 
with original readings in Anacreon, Sappho, and 
Pindar, feeding his manly piety on that of Fene- 
lon, Madame Guyon, and Woolman, and translat- 

1 The article will be found in Martineau's Essays, Reviews, 
and Addresses, vol. i. p. 149, Macmillan Co., 1890. 


ing German hymns of mystic confidence in God. 
Moreover he wrote " Six Plain Sermons on the 
Times " and delivered them in Boston and else- 
where to seven different assemblages. These were 
carefully prepared while at the same time the tire- 
some, microscopic proof-reading of the De Wette 
translation went on, its publication being for him 
the event of July, 1843. Not till the work on 
this was finished did he know how tired he was. 
There was an imperative demand for rest. Body 
and mind both needed it ; the tired heart most of 
all. On the eve of his departure for Europe he 
preached a sermon to his Roxbury people review- 
ing his ministry with them. It summed up clearly 
and forcibly what he had done and tried to do, and 
dwelt very tenderly upon his fears lest they should 
leave him, as other friends had done. 

Fear in the churches, like fire in the woods, runs 
fast and far, leaving few spots not burned. I did not 
know what you would do. I thought you would do 
what others did ; others had promised more but fled at 
the first fire. I made up my mind that you might ask 
a dissolution of our union. 

He told them what he had planned to do, had 
they made good his fears : " If I could not find a 
place in a church, then I meant to take it in a 
hall, in a school-house, or a barn, under the open 
sky, wherever a word could be spoken and heard." 
There cannot be a doubt that he would have done 
so in the imagined case, for not Fox or Wesley 
had more conviction that he had a message which 


he must proclaim, but necessity was not laid upon 

He sailed for Europe September 5, 1843, a kind 
friend having furnished him with the means for a 
year's travel. A new volume of the journal was 
begun, and on the fly leaf is a simple drawing of 
the West Roxbury meeting-house, set there as if 
to keep him 

True to the kindred points of heaven and home. 

One of the first entries has a similar intent : — 

I am now to spend a year in foreign travel. In 
this year I shall earn nothing, neither my food nor my 
clothes, nor even the paper I write on. I shall increase 
my debt to the world by every potato I eat, and each 
mile I travel. How shall I repay the debt ? Only by 
extraordinary efforts after I return. 

His voyage of twenty-five days in a sailing ves- 
sel was most miserable, and bred in him such a 
terror of the sea that when he came to die in 
Florence one reason that he gave for being buried 
there was that the sea had treated him so ill. But 
he caught thirty-seven subjects for sermons on the 
way over. His European journal and letters are 
interesting almost exclusively for their personal 
equation. Descriptions of foreign cities, buildings, 
and pictures were long since a drug in the market, 
and his were seldom of the best. Hawthorne's 
judgments of pictures and statues were sufficiently 
crude; Parker's were more so, if possible, — as 
where he says that Michael Angelo, a product of 


the Renaissance, was " the Middle Age all over." 
But he brought to everything an honest mind. He 
had no conventional admirations. His were no 
guide-book thrills. When he sees the Madonna 
della Seggiola in the Pitti Palace, and writes, 
" What a painting ! God in heaven, what a paint- 
ing ! " we like the note because it sounds so true. 
Of course the subject was one which always tanta- 
lized his hungry heart. It is not clear how such a 
journey could have given him much mental relax- 
ation. A young man in a contemporary novel de- 
scribes himself as " resting like fury." The descrip- 
tion would fit Parker like a glove. His interest in 
books and the men, especially the living men, who 
had written them, was always on the alert. To 
meet face to face the scholars whom till now he had 
only seen reflected in his books was his peculiar joy. 
In London he met Rev. John James Tayler, a lead- 
ing Unitarian scholar, whose study of the Fourth 
Gospel is one of the best of many, and convincing 
of its late, unapostolic origin. He also met Francis 
W. Newman, who had already taken his line of wide 
divergence from his brother, but whose books were 
as yet unwritten. He and Parker differed about 
Plato and the relative truth of his Socrates and 
Xenophon's. In Paris he sees Cousin, who had 
been one of his helpers, and hears St. Hilaire lec- 
ture ; also hears lectures on Arabic and half a 
dozen different matters. All was grist that came 
to his mill. He called nothing common or un- 
clean. Statistics of all kinds jostle Corneille and 


Cicero and Descartes and Alexandrian mysticism 
on his journal's copious page. He sees the Venus 
of Milo, " a glorious human creature made for 
all the events of life," while (this in Florence) 
" the toy woman came to her perfect flower in the 
Venus de Medici." The unconscious utilitarian 
speaks in these aesthetic judgments. 

Lyons had for him its memories of Christian 
massacres by the best of pagan emperors, and in 
them he forgets, the journal says, the Boston 
Association ; the fact being that they remind him 
of it and brace him for his milder sufferings. The 
memories of Avignon are those of the papal cap- 
tivity and the Roman inquisition, the instruments 
of which bite into his imagination as they once had 
done into men's living flesh. Genoa's sumptuous 
palaces attract him much, her handsome women 
more. At Pisa there is " another tower which 
resembles the great one only in its leaning. This 
is like all imitators ; they get the halting step, not 
the inspiration." From Pisa he went to Florence, 
and in Savonarola's cell did homage to " that daunt- 
less soul who feared nothing but wrong and fear." 
He is much impressed by Michael Angelo's sym- 
bolic figures on the Medicean tombs. With naive 
unconsciousness he penetrates the sculptor's secret 
when he says, " I do not see the connection of 
these figures with a tomb or chapel." No more 
did Michael Angelo. His meaning was, — 

While such things last, better to be mere stone. 


In Rome he is exceedingly alliterative in his 
description of English tourists : " Wherever the 
English go they carry with them their pride, their 
prejudice, their port, their porter, and their pickles." 
He lets his fancy play with the relics of the Chris- 
tian city, even while his understanding halts. He 
brings no ungracious skepticism to the Catacombs, 
and they shake his heart with deep emotions of 
gratefulness and admiration. " Yet I could not but 
think how easy it must have seemed, and have 
been, too, to bear the cross of martyrdom." He 
is convinced that the Church departed from its 
primitive simplicity long before Constantine. In 
the Coliseum he had naturally a pagan thought — 
what a fine place it would be in which to preach 
" Parkerism." He duly visited the Pope, then 
Gregory XVL, who received him and others very 
kindly, wearing a monk's simple dress. It is by 
no means an unsympathetic mind that he brings to 
the judgment of the Roman Church. He thinks 
it " cultivates feelings of reverence, of faith, of 
gentleness, better than the Protestant churches ; 
but I can't think it affects the conscience so pow- 
erfully, and I know that at present it does not 
appeal to the reason or practical good sense." A 
great deal of hard work went to his endeavor to 
do perfect justice to the ancient city who is " the 
mother of us all." 

All the poet in him stirs to the motion of the 
Venetian gondolas and dreams a dream of what 
the glory of the city formerly had been, " the pre- 


sence that once so strangely rose beside the 
waters." Padua, Vicenza, and Verona did not 
detain him long. He must have walked Verona's 
spacious square remembering Dante's homeless 
feet with conscious sympathy. Here was another 
who had been in hell, and must soon be going 
back. He crosses the Alps and sees Innsbruck, 
with its chief wonder of Maximilian's splendid 
cenotaph, and then goes to Munich, and to Vi- 
enna, which impresses him as the most frivolous 
city in Europe, — far more frivolous than Paris. 
At Prague, as everywhere where Jews abound, he 
makes a study of the Ghetto. The ancient syna- 
gogue, its walls so black with grime, lest cleaning 
them might efface the name of God, must have 
been to him a lively parable. In Germany, ex- 
cept for Dresden, where he had twelve days for 
Raphael's Sistine Madonna and the other pictures, 
the interest is centred more on persons than on 
things. In Berlin, Schelling, at seventy, was sadly 
lacking in that old strength which had moved so 
many, Parker with the rest. He heard Vatke 
also, but there was no hint of his fruitful germ 
of all that has now come to flower and fruit in 
Kuenen and Wellhausen. Going to Potsdam he 
felt that, like the Roman Emperor, he had lost a 
day. Sans Souci was " sans everything " to him. 
In Halle he heard lectures by Tholuck and had 
delightful interviews with him and Schlosser, then 
a veteran, and Gervinus, who was Parker's junior 
by a few years. By this time Parker's sober 


second thought concerning Strauss had come to 
him : — 

Gervinus thinks that the influence of Strauss has 
passed away ; so says Ulmann. I think them mistaken. 
The first influence, that of making a noise, is over, no 
doubt ; but the truth that he has brought to light will 
sink into German theology and mould it anew. . . . 
Men mistake a cessation of the means for a cessation of 
the end. 

His visits to Ewald and F. C. Baur at Tubin- 
gen were highly significant. He found Ewald with 
his hair about his shoulders, wearing a kind of 
calico blouse, with no waistcoat or neckerchief, 
and with a corresponding freedom in his thought, 
though he regarded De Wette as too skeptical. 
Baur must have made for Parker a bad quarter of 
an hour, for when Parker asked him how many 
hours a day he studied he answered, " Alas ! only 
eighteen ; ' two or three hours more than Parker's 
maximum allowance. To go to Bale to see De 
Wette was to make a sacred pilgrimage, so long 
had he been conversing with his mind. He was 
much disappointed to find that De Wette had 
not received a copy of the " Introduction " which 
he had ordered sent to him. He found De Wette 
more conservative than he had been ; somewhat 
subdued to the environment of timidity in which 
he had worked so long. But Parker's explanation 
was his lack of " a sound and settled philosophy," 
of Transcendentalism all compact. 

One of the most attractive incidents of his Ger- 


man travel was a visit in Berlin to Bettine von 
Arnim, whose friendship with Goethe was taken 
more seriously in 1843 than it is now. 

May 23, 1844. I told her that, if the men lack cour- 
age [as she complained] she had enough ; that she had 
the courage of a Jewish prophet and the inspiration of 
a Christian apostle. She said she was not Christian, 
hut heathen, — she prayed to Jupiter. I told her that 
was nothing ; there was but one God, whose name was 
neither Jupiter nor Jehovah, and he took each true 
prayer. Then she said again she was no Christian. I 
asked, " Have you no respect for Christ ? " " None for 
the person, for he had done more harm to the world 
than any other man." I found, however, that for the 
man Jesus of Nazareth, and for all the great doctrines 
of religion, she had the profoundest respect. I told her 
there was, to my thinking, but one religion, — that was 
being good and doing good. 

A complete disclosure of his thought would, 
however, have revealed that, to his thinking, a man 
could not be good without loving God, at least 
unconsciously. His piety and morality were one, 
and that one was piety " in its descent and being " 
albeit morality in its manifestation to the world. 

In England he met Hennell, a giant in those 
days of English critical beginnings, and Sterling, 
drawing near to his untimely end, and Carlyle, 
with whom he had tea, but, apparently, less nectar 
and ambrosia than he had hoped. Martineau had 
not yet come to live in London. Parker sought 
him in Liverpool and preached for him, there be- 
ing no Liverpool Association to put up the bars. 


Here and there, especially in Germany, he had 
written Dr. Francis letters of unconscionable length, 
telling him a thousand things about the libraries, 
the universities, and the professors, which he knew 
would do him good. He praises his courage in 
supplying his pulpit, hearing that the brethren will 
not exchange with him. He wonders what the 
Unitarians will do with two such liberal scholars 
as him and Noyes in the Divinity School. Some 
of them grew up to them in a few years and others 
passed beyond them into larger views. 

Mr. Parker reached home September 1, 1844, 
after a voyage of twelve days, " completing the 
quickest passage ever made." It was evening when 
he got there, but the neighbors, and their children 
" in their several beds," must be seen before he 
could seek his own. His year of travel had not 
been unmixed delight. He had had ugly symptoms 
in his head and side. But the year had been one 
of the most profitable of all his course. He had 
seen many things of which he had only read before, 
and they had been made real for him. Henceforth 
much of his reading would have a body and form 
it had not yet had. He was grateful for so much, 
glad to be back again ; but wondered much what 
the untrodden future had in store. 



The significance of my title is that Parker's 
divided duty for some time after his return from 
Europe was not unlike that of Nehemiah's men at 
work upon Jerusalem's wall. With one hand they 
wrought at the wall and with the other they car- 
ried a weapon. The work, under such conditions, 
could not have gone on smoothly and been all that 
it would have been could each workman have had 
both hands for it. It is interesting to imagine 
what Parker's work would have been if he had not 
been fettered, first by a theological and then by a 
political controversy. In that case we should have 
had more books from him and better ; they would 
have been more meditative in their tone, with 
fewer lines that we could wish to blot because they 
bear either the marks of haste or some trace of 
irritation with his critics' dull misapprehension or 
their cruel wrong. What he saw, he saw so plainly 
that others' inability to see it struck him as willful 
blindness, and the compliment that he paid to their 
intelligence was on its obverse side an imputation 
of intellectual dishonesty, of which there was, as 
of Mercutio's wound, enough. He had the defect 


of his emotional quality. Like all affectionate 
people, he thought in persons, and could with dif- 
ficulty separate the opinion from the man, and, 
while reprobating that, let the man go unscathed. 
He could do this when his emotion was recollected 
in tranquillity, but not when he was writing and 
speaking at white heat. There was no lack of 
censors at the time. Faithful were the wounds of 
friends, who put their fingers on each ailing spot 
with the best intentions in the world. One of 
the strangest things we have to reckon with is his 
naive unconsciousness of his own hard sayings — 
how many and how hard they were. It is the 
stranger because he was so sensitive to every coun- 
ter-stroke. But this unconsciousness was not uni- 
form. Some of his most awful personal denuncia- 
tions were written in an agony of prayer and tears. 
Gladly would he have been delivered from the 
necessity of braiding such a whip for clergymen 
and politicians desecrating the temple of God's 
truth and justice with their sordid bartering. But 
his was Luther's case : So help him God he could 
" do no other." 

When we come to see how Parker's studies were 
invaded by the mighty opposites of the pro-slavery 
and anti-slavery parties, we shall not regret the 
sacrifice he made ; nor can we regret his theological 
and religious controversy, whatever its deduction 
from the more genial aspect he might otherwise 
have worn. In either case the vigor and splendor 
of his personality were immeasurably enhanced. 


Here the useful country minister was made the 
prophet of the century, and there one of the chief 
among the champions of the anti-slavery cause. 

In matters theological and religious, to be 
" mighty careful to tell no lies," the mark of an- 
other clergyman's high calling, was not enough for 
him. He had not so learned the Unitarian gospel, 
sitting at Channing's feet and looking up into 
those large spiritual eyes. He saw that in the 
original Unitarian controversy the denials all had 
to come out sooner or later, and that the final 
explosion was more dangerous every day it was 
delayed. He remembered the old charges of 
hypocritical concealment and the humiliation of re- 
butting them. The policy of silence and reserve 
might do for others ; it was impossible for him. 
But if, after his return from Europe, he had been 
quietly ignored, or had been made the object of no 
direct attack, he might, possibly, have remained a 
suburban minister all his days. As it was, the 
bad blood of his opponents was the seed of his 
heretical church. Their persecution gave him the 
costly and magnificent advertisement which he re- 
quired to bring his larger talents into fuller play. 
We cannot be too grateful to them for the service 
which they rendered him, and, through him, the 
religious world. 

He took up his work again in September, 1844. 
In November following, Rev. John T. Sargent 
asked him to exchange with him. Now, it so hap- 
pened that Mr. Sargent's Suffolk Street Chapel 


was a mission chapel under the charge of the 
Benevolent Fraternity of Churches. In a letter to 
the Boston Association, Parker gave him a good 
character, saying veraciously : — 

His family contributed largely to the erection and 
embellishment of the chapel from which he is expelled. 
He has himself spent freely his own property for the 
poor under his charge and has been untiring in his 
labors. No shadow of reproach attaches to his name, 
but on the contrary he is distinguished beyond his fel- 
lows by the excellence of his character and the noble- 
ness of his life. A righteous and a self-denying man 
he went out into the lanes and highways of Boston, 
gathering together the poor and forsaken, and formed 
a Society which prospered under his ministry and be- 
came strongly attached to him. 

The officers of the Benevolent Fraternity hardly 
needed to be told these things. They knew them 
and justly appreciated them ; also that Mr. Sar- 
gent's family was one of property and standing. 
They knew, moreover, that Mr. Sargent differed 
frankly from Mr. Parker's heretical opinions. 
But he had given Parker the hand of fellowship 
and he would not withdraw it. Thereupon the 
Fraternity sent him such a letter of correction and 
reproof that nothing was possible for him but to 
resign his charge. The situation was not a plea- 
sant one for the Fraternity, but its officials had the 
courage of their convictions and Mr. Sargent found 
his occupation gone. 1 

1 After a short settlement in Somerville, he preached infre- 


Close upon the Sargent incident came another. 
December 26th, Mr. Parker took his turn at the 
Boston Thursday lecture, a venerable institution 
which had fallen away a good deal from its origi- 
nal estate ; at least in popular estimation. It was 
preached at the First Church, of which Dr. Froth- 
ingham was minister, at 11 a. M., the young Octa- 
vius " doing arduous and unremunerated duty at 
the bellows," little imagining that he would one 
day be the biographer of the heretic who crowded 
with an eager throng the pews which generally 
mustered only a few scattered individuals and spo- 
radic groups. Parker's subject was " The Relation 
of Jesus to his Age and the Ages." Those walls 
had never echoed to a loftier tribute to the excel- 
lence of Jesus, but his humanity was not disguised. 
It was made as plain as words could make it, while 
still the permanence of his influence was chanted 

quently in the more liberal pulpits, and I would not willingly 
forget one of his sermons which I heard in Marblehead on the 
complicity of the North with the South in the maintenance of 
slavery. The text was, Jer. i. 13, " I see a seething-pot and the 
face thereof is towards the North." He was an efficient worker 
upon anti-slavery lines. Later his spacious house was the attrac- 
tive local habitation of the Radical Club, Mrs. Sargent doing its 
honors very graciously. Strangely enough the Benevolent Fra- 
ternity of Churches has fallen heir to the estate of the Twenty- 
eighth Congregational Society, Parker Memorial Hall, and it has 
been the constant aim of Rev. E. A. Horton, the most active 
officer of the Fraternity, to administer the trust in a manner hon- 
orable to Parker's memory. When Mr. Horton was a theological 
student at Meadville he found Parker's works conspicuously ab- 
sent from the Library and instigated me to sectire a gift of Miss 
Cobbe's edition, which the faculty did not refuse. 


in a rhapsody of lyric speech. Never was utter- 
ance more affirmative ; but the negation of the 
supernatural was there, and the brethren fastened 
their attention upon this and worried themselves 
into a fever of excitement over it. Something 
must be done to prevent a repetition of this scan- 
dal, and the ingenious mind of Dr. Frothingham 
found out the remedy. It was to take back into 
his own hands the management of the Thursday 
lecture and invite whom he would, conspicuously 
leaving Mr. Parker out. The lecture had origi- 
nally been the First Church's own affair ; it had 
not been for one hundred and seventy years, but 
what more simple than to return to first principles. 
" The device," says O. B. Frothingham, " was in- 
genious but not handsome. The ungodly called it 
a trick." The Thursday lecture died of it, and not 
Parker. It was a lingering death, and a resurrec- 
tion was afterward attempted but without success. 
No month was now without its sign. In Jan- 
uary, 1845, James Freeman Clarke exchanged 
pulpits with Mr. Parker, 1 frankly disavowing in 
advance all sympathy with his heretical opinions. 
" Black Sunday," wrote Mr. Clarke in his journal. 
It proved blacker than he thought. Fifteen of his 
strongest men, financially and socially, with their 
families, left his society and joined themselves to 

1 Whose sermon " The Excellence of Goodness " is good read- 
ing now and will be at any time to come. It may have been of 
this, but it was, I think, of another, that one of Mr. Clarke's saintly 
women said to Parker at the church door, " I wish that Theodore 
Parker could have heard thai sermon ! " 


Eev. R. C. Waterston, who, as minister of one of 
the Fraternity Chapels, had officiously proclaimed 
that he was no such consorter with heretics as Mr. 
Sargent, and had been rewarded by an invitation 
to become the pastor of a new society with a fine 
new church. It was a hard blow for Mr. Clarke, 
trying to build a church on unconventional lines, 
and fighting against odds. Good men, one of them 
John A. Andrew, whom a great fame awaited as 
Governor of Massachusetts, expostulated with both 
Clarke and Parker, hoping to prevent the exchange, 
but they knew not what manner of spirit they were 
of. The men who agreed with Parker, and yet 
dared not exchange with him, must have seen them- 
selves reflected in the bright mirror of Clarke's 
preeminent nobility and been much ashamed. 
Little heart could they have had for the meeting 
of the Association the next night at Bartol's 
(January 27), the subject for discussion being, as 
Clarke's diary witnesses, " Expulsion of Theodore 

It is worth noticing that Mr. Clarke was soon 
after made a director of the American Unitarian 
Association, 1 tangible evidence that the Unitarian 
principle of intellectual liberty had not perished 
in the house of its friends. 2 But Parker had 

1 Not, yet once more, the Boston Association of Congregational 

2 In general Parker was much less feared and shunned by the 
suburban and country ministers outside the Boston Association, 
they not feeling so responsible for him as did the members of that 


other sheep who were not of that fold and they 
would have a shepherd. January 2 2d, four days 
in advance of the exchange with Clarke, a number 
of gentlemen met and passed one brief resolution : 
" That the Rev. Theodore Parker have a chance 
to be heard in Boston." The event for February 
was his first sermon in the Melodeon, on Sunday 
the 16 th of that month. 

Parker had found himself more at home than 
ever in the West Roxbury pulpit after his return 
from Europe. The people were hungry for his 
word, more sweet and wholesome than any that 
Dr. Francis and the other substitutes had given 
them. On his part there was a new sense of his 
mission. He had not been to Wittenberg for no- 
thing and taken counsel there with Luther's in- 
domitable spirit. At many points the recollections 
of his foreign travel touched his thought with 
images of beauty and of power. Brook Farm, 
only a mile away across the fields, was now enter- 
ing on its later and more formal, Fourierite, stage. 
But to walk over there was to find Ripley, always 
a congenial spirit, who had not forgotten his good 
visit with Parker in 1837, or another in 1839, 
" which was in fact the causal and immediate ante- 
cedent of Brook Farm with all its wondrous expe- 
riences," 1 and with Ripley others of quick intel- 

1 Letter of Ripley to Parker, October 25, 1858. But Parker 
took no stock in the enterprise except literally. See Frothing- 
ham's George Ripley, p. 194, and his Theodore Parker, p. 138 ; 
also Lindsay Swift's Brook Farm, p. 22, et passim. 


ligence. His Sunday congregation had generally 
a few visitors from the Farm. George William 
Curtis and his brother Burrill, who had come fre- 
quently, had now gone to Concord to try farming 
there. If they had come to church wearing the 
bright chintz blouses and pretty tasseled caps in 
which young Higginson saw them on one of his 
"cheerful yesterdays" the sensation would have 
been immense. 

There were many offshoots of "the newness" 
in those days and among them was the " Dial," 
which told its first sunny hours in 1840 and its 
last overclouded ones in 1844. The best accounts 
of it will be found in Higginson's " Margaret Ful- 
ler Ossoli," and Cooke's " Ralph Waldo Emerson," 
but the four volumes are its own best evidence. 
Emerson describes it as " a modest quarterly jour- 
nal under the editorship of Margaret Fuller," and 
says, " Perhaps its writers were also its chief 
readers. But it had some noble papers ; per- 
haps the best of Margaret Fuller's. It had some 
numbers highly important, because they contained 
papers by Theodore Parker," which, so Emerson 
is quoted, " sold the numbers." Emerson and 
Ripley were associated with Miss Fuller in the 
editing for two years, and then, her health failing, 
Emerson became editor-in-chief. For Parker it 
was never satisfactory. The only early number 
to which he contributed nothing was the one which 
Carlyle denounced as "all spirit-like, aeriform, 
aurora-borealis like." For this number Miss Ful- 


ler wrote 85 of its 136 pages — this proportion 
because the articles promised by others did n't come 
to hand. She writes of Parker's being " disgusted 
with Thoreau's pieces," and for Alcott's "Or- 
phic Sayings " and others his appreciation was as 
much below their worth as Emerson's above it. 
His own " Massachusetts Quarterly Review " of a 
later date expressed better than the " Dial " his 
ideal of what a quarterly should be, — " the Dial 
with a beard," — but it has had no such permanent 
engagement as the " Dial " for those who have 
been profoundly interested in the history of New 
England thought and culture. 

Parker had more than one good reason for 
thinking kindly of the " Dial." It brought the 
mountain air of Emerson's thought into his study, 
and it gave him an opportunity to reach a wider 
audience than that of his Roxbury meeting-house. 
He availed himself of this opportunity with much 
eagerness. In the first number, July, 1840, his 
article was " The Divine Presence in Nature and 
the Soul." For companions it had at least four 
immortals, — Emerson's " Problem ; " Thoreau's 
"Sympathy;" John S. Dwight's "Rest;" and 
Mrs. Ellen Hooper's " Lines : " — 

I slept and dreamed that life was Beauty. 

Subsequent numbers, until he went to Europe, had 
almost invariably some contribution from his hand. 
He was no longer so welcome to the " Examiner " 
as he had been, or could only write for it with his 


left hand ; hence the " Dial " opening was more 
precious. His " Thoughts on Labor " appeared 
in April, 1841 ; " The Pharisees " in the July 
number of that year, while in the number for Jan- 
uary, 1842, he had two elaborate articles, " Ger- 
man Literature" and "Thoughts on Theology," 
reviewing " Dorner's Christology." His review of 
Strauss appeared in the " Examiner " of April, 
1840, and a graphic sketch of St. Bernard in 
October, 1841 ; none of these articles except the 
Strauss reached the degree of elaboration which 
marked several of his articles for the " Massachu- 
setts Quarterly Review," which began its course 
in December, 1847, ran for three years, and then 
" came to an end directly through the failure of 
the publishers, though they had always found the 
' Review ' profitable to them." He joined himself 
reluctantly with Mr. Emerson and J. E. Cabot 1 to 
edit this " Review," but soon became sole editor 
and principal writer. Here appeared his review of 
" Channing's Life," " Character of Mr. Prescott 
as a Historian," " Prescott's Conquest of Mexico," 
" The Administration of the Late Mr. Polk," " The 
Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson," " Hildreth's 
History of the United States," "The Political 
Destination of America ; " also such elaborate ser- 
mons as those upon " The Death of John Quincy 
Adams," and " The Mexican War." 

1 Emerson's excellent biographer. His account of the matter, 
Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson, p. 497, is quite different from 
that of Mr. Weiss ; q. v., vol. i. p. 266. 


Theodore Parker's distinction was in but small 
part that of a man of letters. To pure literature, 
which must have, to be so constituted, some ex- 
trinsic grace to match its intrinsic quality, he 
made no considerable addition. The preacher in 
him was too overpowering to permit a brother 
near the throne. The habit of the essayist was 
too much that of the rapid sermonizer, who did 
not care to " file his line " or had no time to do 
it. His sermon style, loose, copious, expansive, 
eloquent, — admirable for its purpose, — was too 
ungirt, diffuse, redundant for the printed page. 
But his power of statement was remarkable, and 
the cumulative force of it — the massing of facts, 
the abundance of happy illustration. A certain 
homely beauty was the most attractive feature of 
both his speaking and writing, and there was more 
of this in his sermons than in his reviews and other 
articles prepared for this or that periodical. Of 
the homeliness his vocabulary was sufficient proof. 
Ninety-one of his words out of each hundred were 
Anglo-Saxon, to eighty-five of Webster's and sev- 
enty-four of Sumner's. Counting incidentally one 
of his pages, I was astonished at the number of 
words and found I had been counting monosylla- 
bles for the most part. As with words, so too with 
things. He wrote : — 

The roots which the beasts and which men feed 
upon — what homely and yet what comely things they 
are ! nay, the commonest of them all has a certain hard 
but masculine beauty and attractiveness." 


He said of the potatoes : — 

" I cannot see them lying in heaps in the farmer's 
fields, or in wagon-loads brought to market, the earth 
still clinging to their sides, without reverence for that 
infinite wisdom which puts such beauty into common 

That " wholeness of tissue " which Matthew 
Arnold missed in Emerson was seldom to be found 
in any continuous piece of Parker's writing, but 
we can never go far with him without coming upon 
some passage of sweet and wholesome beauty, and 
his epithets were so vivid that dozens of them 
make a picture for the mind, as where the farmer's 
boy, lying awake after he has gone to bed, hears 
the ripe apples plumping down in the still moon- 
light. It was because of such things that the com- 
mon people heard him gladly. He called the words 
of Jesus " words so deep that a child could under- 
stand them," and to that lovely paradox he often 
furnished a convincing illustration. 

He was not one of those " indolent reviewers " 
who, fearing to break a butterfly upon the wheel, 
do nothing in a serious manner, and depend for 
their knowledge of all subjects on the books which 
they review. No one could have done review work 
from the surface of his mind more easily than 
Parker, but few have ever gone about that work 
with such deliberate special preparation. The 
pages of his journal show how much of this went 
into the foundations of his review of Strauss's 
" Life of Jesus." Page after page is thick with 


notes upon his reading and references to author- 
ities. There was the book itself to read, — some 
1600 pages, — and I remember well how that took 
me a solid month, at least two hundred hours; 
but that was only the beginning of his toil. He 
read all the books, pamphlets, and reviews attack- 
ing or defending Strauss. When he came to write, 
he wasted time and space upon a lively application 
of Strauss's theory to certain known historical 
events. He wrote too much as if Strauss denied 
the existence of an historical Jesus. It is certain 
that all subsequent studies have tended to con- 
firm what is most essential in Strauss, namely, 
that ideas have had enormous plastic stress upon 
the alleged facts of the New Testament narration ; 
especially those ideas that were in process of de- 
velopment in the first and second centuries. 

Before writing the two articles on Prescott's 
histories he read hard for seven months upon the 
subjects of those histories. He read all of Pres- 
cott's own authorities except certain MSS. which 
were Prescott's private property. The review of 
Polk's administration reads as if he had read every 
book, congressional report, and newspaper bearing 
on the subject, which he treated in the largest way, 
reviewing the whole course of the Texan trouble 
from its earliest beginning to its monstrous end. 
He was never more effective than in such work as 
this. His stock and mastery of facts were some- 
thing marvelous. But he was not content unless 
he could set his concrete examples in a frame of 


philosophic generalization. Hence, where the Irish 
legislator would say " a few words before I begin," 
he is more prodigal; his introductions are com- 
monly too long. He was never so happy in deal- 
ing with literary subjects as in dealing with those 
concretely ethical and political and religious ; and 
never so happy in dealing with the large and meta- 
physical aspects of religion as when treating its spe- 
cific manifestations. Thus, his elaborate review of 
Emerson is mainly interesting for its cordial recog- 
nition of Emerson's preeminent ability. He praises 
Emerson for qualities generally denied to Parker 
himself: "There is not in all his works a single 
jeer or ill-natured sarcasm." Yet one passage 
reads as if he were beholding himself in the glass 
and painting himself as he was. He is praising 
Emerson's American geography and botany and so 
on. What he says is true of Emerson, but as true 
of Parker : — 

He tells of the rhodora, the club-moss, the bloom- 
ing clover, not of the hibiscus and the asphodel. He 
knows the humble-bee, the blackbird, the bat, and the 
wren, and is not ashamed to say or sing of the things 
under his own eyes. He illustrates his high thought 
by common things out of our plain New England life, 
— the meeting in the church, the Sunday-school, the 
dancing-school, a huckleberry party, the boys and girls 
hastening home from school, the youth in the shop, 
beginning an unconscious courtship with his unheeding 
customer, the farmers about their work in the fields, 
the bustling trader in the city, the cattle, the new hay, 
the voters at a town meeting, the village brawler in a 


tavern full of tipsy riot, the conservative who thinks the 
nation is lost if his ticket chance to miscarry, the bigot 
worshiping the knot-hole through which a dusty beam 
of light has looked in upon his darkness, the radical 
who declares that nothing is good if established, and 
the patent reformer who screams in your ears that he 
can finish the world with a single touch, — and out of 
all these he makes his poetry, or illustrates his philo- 
sophy. . . . Even Mr. Emerson's recent exaggerated 
praise of England * is such a panegyric as none but an 
American could bestow. 

Parker valued intuition as the source of primary 
religious ideas, but distrusted it for workaday 
affairs. He complains of Emerson that " he un- 
dervalues the logical, demonstrative, and historical 
understanding." He did not doubt the reality of 
" ecstasy," " the state of intuition in which man 
loses his individual self -consciousness," but " all that 
mankind has learned in this way is little compared 
with the results of reflection, of meditation, and 
careful, conscientious looking after truth." " Med- 
itation " was not one of his own mental qualities. 
It was one of Channing's to a preeminent degree, 
and here the comparison between him and Parker 
is to the disadvantage of the latter. Parker resents 
Emerson's disparagement of books, but his own 
devotion to them was excessive. John S. D wight 
put his finger on this ailing spot in March, 1837 : 

Don't you often turn aside from your own reflection 
from the fear of losing what another has said or written 

1 In English Traits. 


on the subject? Have you not too much of a mania for 
all printed things, — as if books were [more than ?] the 
symbols of that truth to which the student aspires ? You 
write, you read, you talk, you think in a hurry for fear 
of not getting all. 

A lack of self-reliance has not often been attrib- 
uted to Parker, but plainly there was something 
of it here. 

When he says that no man is further from Pan- 
theism than Emerson, the advocate has usurped 
the judge's bench. He has " a pain in his brother's 
side " which for a moment dims his sight. It is 
not perfectly clear when he writes of Emerson's 
poems. He praises most some that were thought 
to be obscure. Generally he had sound apprecia- 
tion of their best elements, and reprobated real 
faults ; yet he could only say of the " Woodnotes " 
that it had " some pleasing lines," but that " a 
pine-tree which should talk like Mr. Emerson's 
pine ought to be plucked up by the roots and cast 
into the sea." " Monadnoc " is written down as 
" forced and unnatural, as well as poor and weak." 
This sky-born transcendentalist was not only " rich 
in saving common sense," but sometimes matter- 
of-fact and prosaic overmuch in his dealings with 
things imaginative and poetic. 

His reading of poetry was wide and included 
much of the best that had been written, yet we 
find things that were merely pretty pasted into his 
journal. The older English poets were well known 
to him and the quotations in his sermons are fre- 


quently from them. Of course George Herbert's 
" Man " was a lasting favorite with him, and 
William Blake's " Divine Image " — 

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love — 

is written in his journal of 1842 when it was 
treasure known to few. His own satisfaction in 
writing verse was out of all proportion with his 
poetical ability. He did much in the way of trans- 
lation ; doing German mystic hymns into English, 
and attempting such elusive things as Heine's 
songs. His own " Protean Wishes," published in 
the " Dial," July, 1841, is a pleasant variation of 
a well-worn theme. Three of his sonnets (perhaps 
more) appeared in the " Liberty Bell," which was 
rung once a year by the managers of the Anti- 
Slavery Fair. One of these (1846), 1 divided into 
three quatrains, dropping the couplet from the 
end, and somewhat changed, has long been a favo- 
rite hymn in liberal and even in some orthodox 
churches. It is reproduced herewith as printed in 
the "Liberty Bell": 2 — 

Oh thou great Friend to all the sons of men, 
Who once appear'd in humblest guise below, 
Sin to rebuke and break the captive's chain, 
To call thy brethren forth from want and woe, — 

1 Probably written earlier, as was the other published at the 
same time : — 

Jesus there is no no name so dear thine — (sic). 

2 The last long-drawn line is much varied as printed by differ- 
ent biographers and others quoting it. The best variant, but, I 
think, without authority is, — 

To uplift their bleeding brothers from the dust. 


Thee would I sing. Thy Truth is still the Light 
Which guides the nations — groping on their way, 
Stumbling and falling in disastrous night, 
Yet hoping ever for the perfect day ; 
Yes ! thou art still the Life ; thou art the Way 
The holiest know, — Light, Life, and Way of Heaven ! 
And they who dearest hope and deepest pray, 
Toil by the Light, Life, Way, which thou hast given. 
And by thy Truth aspiring mortals trust 
T' uplift their faint and bleeding brothers rescued from the dust. 

In the "Liberty Bell" of 1851, there is "A 
Sonnet for the Times." The subject is the same 
as that of Whittier's " Ichabod," — Webster's 
moral suicide of March 7, 1850, — and it does 
not compare well with that splendid malediction. 
The following is better. Quite frequently his per- 
sonal devoutness ran into this arbitrary form : — 

Father, I will not ask for wealth or fame, 

Though once they would have joyed my carnal sense : 
I shudder not to bear a hated name, 

Wanting all wealth, myself my sole defense. 
But give me, Lord, eyes to behold the truth ; 

A seeing sense that knows the eternal right ; 
A heart with pity filled, and gentlest ruth ; 

A manly faith that makes all darkness light : 
Give me the power to labor for mankind ; 

Make me the mouth of such as cannot speak ; 
Eyes let me be to groping men and blind ; 

A conscience to the base ; and to the weak 
Let me be hands and feet ; and to the foolish, mind ; 

And lead still further on such as thy kingdom seek. 

The following hymn, which he introduced into 
a sermon on the Ecclesiastical Conception of God, 
is far less poetical than the deliberate prose of his 
more lyrical moments, and yet not lightly to be 
set aside : — 


In darker days and nights of storm, 
Men knew Thee but to fear thy form ; 
And in the reddest lightnings saw 
Thine arm avenge insulted law. 

In brighter days, we read thy love 
In flowers beneath, in stars above ; 
And in the track of every storm 
Behold thy beauty's rainbow form. 

And in the reddest lightning's path 
We see no vestiges of wrath, 
But always wisdom — perfect love 
From flowers beneath to stars above. 

See, from on high sweet influence rains 
On palace, cottage, mountains, plains ! 
No hour of wrath shall mortals fear, 
For their Almighty Love is here. 

Much better, and, if not poetry, something to that 
allied, is " The Pilgrim's Star," first printed from 
the journal by Mr. Sanborn in Crandall's " Repre- 
sentative Sonnets by American Poets." 

To me thou cam'st, the earliest lamp of light, 

When youthful day must sadly disappear, — 
A star prophetic in a world of night, 

Revealing what a heaven of love was near : 
And full of rapture at thy joyous sight, 

I journeyed fearless on the starlight way, — 
A thousand other lights came forth on height, 

But queenliest of all still shone thy ray. 

blessed lamp of Beauty and of Love, 
How long I 've felt thy shining far away ! 

Now, when the morn has chased the shadows gray, 
Still guided by thy memory forth I rove. 

1 '11 journey on till dark still lighter prove, 
And Star and Pilgrim meet where all is day. 


If Parker's skill in verse was slight, it was suffi- 
cient to afford him and his friends much simple 
pleasure. He could rhyme with much facility, and 
never used his gift more pleasantly than for the 
golden wedding of his friends Deacon Samuel and 
Mary Goddard May. There are a dozen stanzas 
strung upon the thread of " Auld Lang Syne." 

It would not be well to infer the amount of 
Parker's learning from the number and the char- 
acter of his books. These in their stupendous 
aggregation represented not so much his accom- 
plishment as his aspiration. He had some twenty 
languages and dialects well in hand, but in his 
library there were grammars and dictionaries of 
many others which he hoped to master soon or 
late. It was so with other books, and moreover his 
purchases had regard sometimes to the benevolent 
intention on which he acted when he bequeathed 
his books to the Boston Public Library : 11,190 
volumes and 2500 pamphlets at his death; at 
Mrs. Parker's death 2397 volumes being added, of 
which 280 were her personal property. This col- 
lection a was well under way in Roxbury, where he 
made the cases for it with his own hands, which 
had not yet forgotten what they learned in the old 
belfry shop. How could he buy so many books 
when his salary was never large? By lecturing 
frequently in the lyceum courses of those days 

1 Much increased by Ripley's library, which Parker bought out- 
right when Ripley needed money more than books to carry on 
Brook Farm. 


and putting all the money earned in this way into 
books. He was well advertised by his opponents, 
and had as many opportunities as he desired. In 
one year (1855) we find him spending $1500 for 
books, but in 1855 he was already saving his book- 
money to protect fugitive slaves. He could use 
his lecture money the more freely because there 
was a fairy godmother on the scene — the kind 
aunt of Mrs. Parker, who did much to reduce the 
expense of housekeeping, 1 while, farther on, Mrs. 
Parker's means were augmented by property com- 
ing from her parents. 

Many of his books were bought with reference 
to a projected " Development of Religion " for 
which he read and planned extensively but wrote 
only two hundred and seventy manuscript pages. 
" Which of all my books," he once asked Colonel 
Higginson, 2 " do you think I have most enjoyed ? " 
It was that Ainsworth's Latin Dictionary which 
he had bought with the income of his berrying : 
" Theodore Parker, ejus liber, 1822." He had a 
great liking for voluminous encyclopaedias such as 
Bayle's, the French " Biographie Universelle," Pier- 
er's "Universal-Lexicon," thirty -four volumes; 
Ersch and Gruber's " Allegemeine Encyclopadie " 

1 She would fain have given the Parkers their Boston house, 
of which she held a mortgage, but Mr. Parker refused the favor, 
and she died leaving a will which did not embody the intentions 
she had plainly had in mind. 

2 Whose account of Mr. Parker's library in the annual report 
of the Boston Public Library for 1883, " Document 103 " for that 
year, is so good that I would gladly copy it entire, but can only, 
while using it freely, commend it heartily. 


in one hundred and fifty volumes ; and with these 
he had many others of their kind. Such books 
were eloquent of his insatiable appetite for in- 
formation, an appetite which would have " mocked 
the meat it fed on " if the provision had been 
scantier than it was. Of similar character were 
his collections of literary history, travels, and geo- 
graphy. His collections in jurisprudence were 
very strong, and many of his writings and speeches 
showed his acquaintance with them to be remark- 
able, especially his " Defence " when indicted for 
the attempt to rescue Anthony Burns. Strangely 
enough, Parker was curious with regard to the 
" Occult Sciences," so called, and collected many 
books relating to them. His library was well 
stocked with histories and particularly with books 
and pamphlets relating to American slavery. His 
books are not annotated so much as we should expect 
they would be, but those upon American history 
are an exception, 1 looking to his biographies of 
Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Webster 
and the younger Adams. In works of philosophy 
and biblical criticism the library was extremely 
rich. His editions of the Bible ran out into the 
merely curious more freely than any other part of 
his collection. Of these he had nearly one hun- 
dred, some of them very old and fine. 

1 Another exception is his collection of the Greek poets. Colo- 
nel Higginson quotes Mr. John G. King, of Salem, Mass., " one of 
the last of our old-fashioned classical scholars," as saying that 
"jTheodore Parker was the only person he had ever encountered 
who could sit down with him and seriously discuss a disputed 
passage in a Greek play." 


Much given to keeping days and feasts, 1 and 
always liking to mark his own birthday with a 
white stone of some sort, he must have been well 
pleased when there came to him on his forty-fourth 
birthday a copy of Alexander Murray's " History 
of the European Languages," for which he had 
been looking a long time. Moreover he was put 
upon the track of it by an advertisement in a 
newspaper sent him from Charleston, S. C, that 
he might see himself abused. He sent for the 
book and got it ; so, like the wounded oyster, as 
Emerson has written, mending his shell with pearl. 

Mr. Parker's learning, while it was far from 
being exhaustive of his 13,000 books, was fairly 
representative of them. He was deep read in 
them, and, as a whole, they qualified his mind with 
their contents. He was a voracious reader, and 
his intellectual digestion was both sound and ser- 
viceable, resolving what he read into the substance 
of his mind. This means much more than that 
his memory was marvelously retentive. But this, 
also, is true. It was not infallible, but, " if he was 
sometimes inaccurate," says Colonel Higginson, 
" he was so with that inevitable percentage of this 
drawback which always accompanies a vast mem- 
ory." His inaccuracies, 2 relatively to the know- 

1 His prefaces generally bear the date of some memorable an- 
niversary : that of the Webster sermon, March 7, 1853, the third 
anniversary of Webster's " Seventh of March Speech ; " the De 
Wette Introduction, August 24, 1843 ; the Ten Sermons, August 
24, 1852 ; the Experience as a Minister, April 19, 1859, etc., etc. 

2 Learning of all kinds is a perpetual flux j critical learning 


ledge of the ordinary well-read clergyman would 
have been " a cypher with the rim removed." He 
read so rapidly that the process appears as one 
of absorption rather than deliberate attention. Of 
instances of his mnemonic brilliancy there is no 
lack. Colonel Higginson relates that wishing to 
find something in Calhoun's works, he was sent at 
once by Parker to the place, Parker at the same 
time reciting from the first volume the table of 
contents, which he had not seen for twenty years. 
At another time Colonel Higginson went to Chief 
Justice Shaw, Justice Gray, and Charles Sumner 
for something touching upon slavery in the Salic, 
Burgundian, and Bipuarian codes before Charle- 
magne's codification. None of these could help, 
but Sumner said, " Try Parker." Higginson did, 
and Parker said, " Go to the Harvard College 
Library and on the fifth shelf in the fourth left- 
hand alcove you will find a small thick quarto vol- 
ume entitled ' Potgeiser de Statu Servorum,' which 
will give you all the information you want." Hig- 
ginson went at once to the library and confirmed 
Parker's daring information. 

I could easily fill up a chapter with such letters 

preeminently ; but Parker's modernness is a continual surprise ; 
he was so much in advance of his time that he is often found 
abreast of the present. One notes his striking" anticipations 
oftener than his serious mistakes. Of course many statements of 
current opinion are true no longer. Occasionally we wonder that 
he could be so evidently wrong, as where he makes Calvin per- 
sonally superintend the burning of Servetus, — a business which 
he devolved on Farel, — and where he understands by the immac- 
ulate conception of Mary her miraculous birth. 


as came to him seeking information as remote as 
that pertaining to mediaeval and barbaric codes ; 
and his answers to them, often written without 
looking in a book. But a single random shot will 
have to serve as representative of his whole scat- 
tering fire. Dr. Francis writes to inquire about 
the " Evangelium iEternum." Replying, Parker 
playfully imagines that Dr. Francis is merely try- 
ing to encourage him like a fond parent giving his 
little boy some easy word to spell, and goes on : — 

Know then, most erudite Professor, that you will 
find an account of this book in Moshehn, Eccl. Hist., 
Book III., Part II., chap, ii., sees. 28, 33, and 34. In the 
notes to Murdock's Version (note 2, pp. 6-9) you will 
find references to the literature. Fleury also gives an 
account of the book : H. E. Tom. XII., Liv. LXXXIV., 
sec. 35, et al. Some attribute it to John of Parma 
(sed male) ; Mosheim thinks it was falsely ascribed to 
Joachim (sed pessime) ; while Gratze (Lehrbuch Allg. 
Literargeschichte aller bekannter Volker der "Welt, von 
der altesten bis auf die neueste Zeit. II. Band II. 2 
Abthlg. lte Halfte, p. 25) thinks it certain that nobody 
wrote the book but Joachim himself. However the " In- 
troductorius " has the wickedest part of the matter — 
sin lying before the door — and that was written by I 
don't know whom ; but I suppose Engelhardt has settled 
this matter in his Kirchengeschichtliche Abhandlungen, 
for he has a tract, Der abt Joachim und das Ewige 
Evangelium, in which you will find all about it — and 
everything else. Besides this, Fabricius has something 
about Joachim in his Bib. Med., etc. Lat., and that very 
rare author, Gieseler (Ch. Hist. II., p. 301) has two notes 
about the book. 


The moral quality of his many letters of this 
kind is more impressive than the intellectual. 
Beautiful was the patience with which he lent him- 
self to others' uses ; answering fools even, for the 
most part, not according to their folly but with the 
utmost gentleness. That his scholarship was more 
exhaustive and robust than it was nice and delicate, 
would very likely be the judgment of his peers. 
It is certain that his general knowledge was far 
more remarkable than the library with which he 
strengthened it from year to year, though, among 
private libraries, this had not an equal in Boston 
except Mr. George Ticknor's, which had a much 
more special character. 

In a certain sense it was the tragedy of Parker's 
life that he produced nothing as a literary monu- 
ment adequate to the prodigality of the materials 
which he amassed. These were enough for a cathe- 
dral pile of grand proportions, but the cathedral 
was never built. The " Development of Religion," 
if it had been written, would have left more stones 
in the way than could have gone into its masonry. 
A " History of Civilization " would have been more 
exigent and hence more adequate. But Theodore 
Parker, as the writer of such a book, would have 
spoiled two better men : Theodore Parker " the 
great American preacher," as he is justly named 
upon his monument in Florence, and Theodore 
Parker the great ally — one of the greatest — of 
Garrison and Lincoln in the emancipation of four 
million slaves. To these two great parts he could 


not have added that of creative scholarship without 
marring all. 

Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail. 

No man ever found his proper place more abso- 
lutely than he. Had he been only the great preacher 
we should have had no reason to complain, or had 
he been only the anti-slavery reformer. That he 
was both at once was fortune singularly good. 
Meantime his wealth of learning did not run to 
utter waste. It bought for us some special things 
of real significance ; chief among these, his transla- 
tion of De Wette's " Introduction." But its best 
service was to enrich whatever work he did with 
copious and effective illustration, yet without any- 
thing of pedantic pride or loss of natural simplicity. 
It made for the enlargement of his mind. It set 
the world in his heart. It was the exponent of 
his big humanity and fed it with unfailing streams. 
He did not overvalue De Wette's " Introduction 
to the Old Testament " at the time he was engaged 
upon it. It was then, as he said, " the most learned, 
the most exact, the most critical Introduction to the 
Old Testament ever made in any tongue." Con- 
sidered dangerously radical in 1843, it now seems 
conservative and even antiquated ; thin, also, in 
comparison with the best later Introductions. The 
principal points at which it broke with the tradi- 
tional conceptions were the late origin of Deuteron- 
omy (620 B. c.) the post-exilic date of Isaiah xl. — 
lxvi. and the Maccabsean date of Daniel. Here are 
the three first letters of an alphabet which since has 


been much lengthened out. How innocent they 
seem, compared with Cheyne's disintegration of 
Isaiah into some twenty parts and his insistence 
that all the Psalms are post-exilic. As here, so 
everywhere. So conservative a critic as Driver 
follows Kuenen and Wellhausen in their assign- 
ment of the priestly portions of the Hexateuch to 
the fifth and later centuries B. c. It is an amus- 
ing paradox that Mr. Andrews Norton's " Note on 
the Pentateuch," which made its first appearance 
in vol. ii. of his " Genuineness of the Gospels " 
in 1844, the year after Parker's "De Wette," was 
more prophetic than that of later studies and re- 
sults. Mr. Norton was a belated Marcion in his 
dislike of the Old Testament, and his dogmatic 
predilections made it easy for him to accept some 
now obvious but then startling conclusions. His 
sense of humor must have been inverted, or he 
could not have been so angry with Parker and 
others for treating the New Testament much more 
respectfully than he treated the Old. 1 

1 Mr. Norton's Note is one of the most amusing curiosities 
of biblical literature. It was republished in England in 1863 
with an introduction by John James Tayler, whose careful state- 
ment of Mr. Norton's position is, " that the whole of man's reli- 
gious convictions and trusts depends entirely on the miraculously 
attested mission of Jesus Christ." He conceded the divine origin 
of Judaism, but only as a background for Christianity to be painted 
in upon. But " in order to render it evident that Moses was from 
God it may be necessary to prove that the books which profess to 
contain a history of his ministry were not written by him and do 
not contain an authentic account of it." This depreciation of the 
Pentateuch is extended to other parts of the Old Testament, Mr. 
Norton's admiration for which was not equal to that of many 
modern critics whose radicalism is pronounced. 


Parker translated " De Wette " word for word, 
making such changes as were demanded by the new 
German editions that appeared between 1836, 
when he began the work, and 1843, when he com- 
pleted it. He read all the previous introductions, 
and so much of the early Fathers as bore upon the 
matter, and all the modern criticisms bearing on 
it that promised anything important. He added 
many passages designed to make the book as clear 
for the general reader as De Wette has made it 
for the learned few. He translated all the Latin, 
Greek, and Hebrew passages that De Wette had 
left in their original form, while this also was re- 
tained. Some of his additions were elaborate; 
those upon Daniel were particularly so. 

The book was not a pecuniary success. It cost 
him $2000 to stereotype it, and in 1858 he had 
got but $775 back. But he did not regret the 
labor or expense : " If I were to live my life over 
again I would do the same. I meant it for a labor 
of love." But those for whom he meant it feared 
him, bringing such a gift. His heresy infected it 
with a fearsome taint. Good men had advised the 
publishers not to publish his books. If they would 
publish them, the good men could refrain from 
buying them ; and this they did. It was not the 
kind of book for a suspected man to publish ; not 
one of " the thirty sous books " in which Vol- 
taire believed. Parker would have done better 
had he assimilated " De Wette " and the whole lit- 
erature of the subject, and then written a popular 


introduction. This he meant to do some time, but 
other and more pressing duties made it impossible. 
It was a task which could afford to wait for other 
hands. So could not the task which he found 
pressed upon him with an insistence and authority 
that were not to be denied. 



By laying violent hands upon itself the Thurs- 
day lecture pretty effectually closed the second 
Unitarian controversy, — that of Theodore Parker 
with the Boston Unitarians. At least that con- 
troversy passed about this time (1845) from an 
acute into a chronic stage. Henceforth Mr. Par- 
ker absented himself from the meetings of the 
Boston Association, and, with a few exceptions, 
had no professional fellowship with the neighbor- 
ing clergy. The parting words on his side were 
those of a" Letter to the Boston Association of 
Congregational Ministers, touching Certain Mat- 
ters of their Theology." It reviewed the situa- 
tion and concluded with a list of four major and 
twenty-four minor questions. The major questions 
asked for definitions of the terms Salvation, Mira- 
cle, Inspiration, Revelation. The minor questions 
were amplifications of the major ones. All were 
intended to bring out the fact that the Associa- 
tion stood for no definite body of belief, but was 
deeply implicated in the heresies of the brother who 
plied his Socratic method with such demoralizing 
ingenuity. The date of this letter was March 20, 


1845, and the " Examiner " 1 of the same month 
contained an article by Dr. Gannett reviewing 
eight pamphlets contributed to the controversy. 
One should read this article if he would see the 
conservative statement putting its best foot for- 
ward. It is a model of controversial writing, and 
Mr. Parker could not have desired a more frank and 
kindly criticism of his works and ways. His belief 
of " the Christian truths " was cheerfully conceded ; 
also his Christian character ; but he was not " a 
Christian believer " because he did not accept the 
truths of Christianity as supernaturally taught : 
" According to the theory which Mr. Parker advo- 
cates the words of Christ derive little authority 
from the fact of his having spoken them ; they are 
to be believed not because they are his words, but 
because they are absolute truth." The modern 
reader will say, Surely here was exaltation and not 
degradation ; but then the sensual miracle was 
more than the spiritual truth. 2 There was some 
criticism of the way in which Mr. Parker han- 
dled sacred matters. Here evidently was a prime 
source of trouble. Sacred matters had had a 
vocabulary of their own. Channing and Buck- 

1 By the Examiner the Christian Examiner is meant here and 
elsewhere. It began its course in 1824 and finished it in 1869. 
It was a lineal successor of the Christian Disciple (1813-24), the 
General Repository (1812-13), and the Monthly Anthology (1803- 
11). Considering the periods covered, the amount of controver- 
sial matter in all these magazines was very small : for a section 
of twenty years less than one article a year. 

2 More as recommending the truth as of divine origin and es- 
tablishing its Christian character. 


minster had dared to give them literary form. 
Parker spontaneously translated them into the 
common speech of men, hoping to make them bet- 
ter understood. The effect was often shocking to 
his contemporaries, for whom every holy spade 
must have its euphuistic name. Emerson summed 
up the state religion of England in five words, " By 
taste ye are saved." Dr. Bellows said, " Tastes 
separate more than opinions." And Parker's 
taste was not infallible. In general his homely 
secular utterance was a step forward — a stride. 
But he was sometimes painfully unhappy in his 
choice of words and illustrations. 

Having stated the case, Dr. Gannett asked, 
" What then shall we do ? " and answered that 
there must be no anger or abuse. The impregna- 
ble bulwarks of Christianity must not be defended 
by covering them with inflammatory placards. 
But the new doctrines must be shown to be un- 
sound, unscriptural, and mischievous. The con- 
servative mind must have found his doing of this 
quite satisfactory. His thinking on the subject 
of intuition was closer than Mr. Parker's own. 
But what should be done with the heretic ? 

Shall he be persecuted? No. Calumniated? No. 
Put down ? No ; if by this phrase be signified the use 
of any but fair and gentle means of curtailing his in- 
fluence. Shall he be silenced, or be tolerated? Not 
tolerated, for the exercise of toleration implies the right 
to restrain the expression of opinion by force, but the 
validity of such a right cannot be admitted in this coun- 


try and should not be allowed in the Christian church. 
Nor silenced ; unless open argument and fraternal per- 
suasion may reduce him to silence. But on the other 
hand he should not be encouraged nor assisted in dif- 
fusing his opinions by those who differ from him in 
regard to their correctness. 

For such to exchange pulpits with him would 
be for them to encourage and assist him. There- 
fore they must not do this. This does not seem 
unfair. 1 A man's pulpit is his castle, into which 
he should not lightly welcome any one who he 
thinks will trifle with the magazine. But the ex- 
change of pulpits was in 1845 the accepted sign 
of ministerial fellowship. To generally deny it to 
Mr. Parker was to resort to " the exclusive policy " 
of the Trinitarians thirty years before. It was to 
say, " Independence forever ! But if you exercise 

1 For those differing" from him. For those agreeing* with him 
it was different, though these, while agreeing with his matter, 
might have objected to his manner. Parker, in his demand for 
perfect liberty of free inquiry and free utterance, was faithful 
to the most explicit and most prominent emphasis of the older 
Unitarians ; who tacitly assumed that their scheme of supernat- 
ural Christianity was wholly rational. But for this assumption 
the demand from 1815 to 1830 for complete intellectual liberty 
would not have been so simple and unwavering. There was no 
injustice or unfairness in making their implicit assumption ex- 
plicit. They had not meant to follow Free Inquiry so far as to 
admit that Christianity might be a natural religion. Therefore, 
says W. C. Gannett, they did right to disclaim Parker. Yes, if, 
so doing, they had frankly abandoned their principle of free 
inquiry as one to the exigency of which they were unequal. Yes, 
if they had frankly confessed that principle to be subordinate to 
the affirmation of the necessity for miraculous support of Chris- 
tian truth. But these things they did not do. 


your independence you are to us a heathen man 
and a publican." Dr. Gannett took issue with 
those who required " that he be cast out from the 
professional sympathies of those with whom he 
had been associated, and that a rebuke be admin- 
istered to him by some formal act of the denom- 
ination." The majority agreed with Dr. Gannett. 
At the Association meeting which considered Mr. 
Parker's expulsion, there were but two votes for it. 
Why sacrifice the jewel of consistency when there 
had already been discovered a more excellent way ? 
But it is high time for us to be considering in 
some more definite manner than heretofore the 
general scope of Parker's philosophical and theo- 
logical opinions. These were of less importance 
to his peculiar work than they have been generally 
esteemed, while yet they were of very great im- 
portance. It was neither as a philosopher nor as 
a theologian that he was most significant, but there 
was no schism in his personality, and between his 
philosophy, his theology, his politics and his reli- 
gion there was continual ebb and flow. The in- 
teraction was habitual and complete. And the 
action of his philosophical opinions on his theolo- 
gical opinions and religious life and action was 
extremely vivid and intense. But while we may 
agree with Mr. Frothingham that " with a differ- 
ent philosophy he would have been a different 
man," it is quite as true that if he had been a dif- 
ferent man he would have had a different philo- 
sophy. Mr. Frothingham is persuaded that " his 


great power as a preacher was due in chief part 
to the earnestness of his faith in the transcenden- 
tal philosophy." But that philosophy as he held 
it took 

the shape, 
With fold on fold, of mountain or of cape, 

of his own spiritual topography. The personal 
equation was the greater part. The doctrine had 
the features of his mind. We should make a great 
mistake if we went to Kant or Fichte or Schelling 
or Hegel for a right view of Transcendentalism 
and then proceeded to assume that Parker's was 
the same. We should not go so far astray if we 
went to Jacobi for the plan of Parker's thought. 
For Jacobi taught that God, the Soul, and Free 
Will were intuitive beliefs of the mind and had the 
same validity as Time, Space, and the External 
World as postulated by the demands of sensuous 
perception. Here certainly was a very close re- 
semblance to Parker's transcendental consciousness 
of God, Immortality, and the Moral Law, but the 
resemblance was probably much more a matter of 
coincidence than a matter of sequence. Moreover 
the positiveness of Jacobi's tone was unique among 
the German Transcendentalists. Kant said, It is 
not in me ; and Fichte, It is not in me. Schel- 
ling passed him by contumeliously on the other 
side. The essential principle of Transcendental- 
ism — that there are elements in knowledge which 
transcend experience — this was common to all 
the members of the group and Parker shared it 


with them. But, for all their common ground, 
their differences among* themselves were very great, 
as were Parker's also from each of them, not even 
Jacobi excepted. 

The difference was incalculable between his view 
and that of Kant — the Moral Law given in con- 
sciousness, while God and Immortality are posited 
as intellectual forms, convenient for its operation, 
and for the ultimate reward of right doing. Even 
more repulsive to him must have been Fichte's 
towering idealism, with no God but his own moral 
consciousness, while Time and Space and Matter 
were but projections of the individual mind. Schel- 
ling, even in his earlier and more sober stage, 
must have considered much too curiously for him, 
so eager was his craving for simplicity. It is 
strange that Schelling's monism of an Absolute 
Being phenomenalized in Mind and Matter did not 
attract him more, and that he preferred thinking 
of matter as " a datum objective to God," but 
God himself the giver. Parker cared little for 
Philosophy except as the handmaid of Religion, 
and consequently he had little use for Hegel with 
a Becoming for his God, a God gradually develop- 
ing and arriving at self-consciousness in man. 

There were more points of contact between Par- 
ker's philosophy and that of the French Eclectics, 
Cousin, Constant, and Jouffroy, and the English 
Germanists, Carlyle and Coleridge, than between 
it and any German system except Jacobi 's ; but as 
compared with these also he was " to his native 


centre fast." He was not less self -poised as related 
to his American contemporaries. He has been 
often characterized as a concreter Emerson, but 
his Transcendentalism and Emerson's were cast in 
very different moulds. Emerson's, in fact, was 
not cast in any. It was a stream of tendency. 
His intuitions were a more feeble folk than Par- 
ker's sturdy affirmations of God, the Moral Law, 
and Immortality as directly known. His biogra- 
pher, Mr. Cabot, says: "His reverence for intui- 
tions and his distrust of reasoning were only the 
preference of truth over past apprehension of the 
truth." Parker was troubled by his incoherency, 
but Emerson saw more " in part " than Parker, 
who lived so " resolvedly in the whole." Parker's 
genius was not metaphysical. Emerson's was much 
more so ; Alcott's far more ; so Ripley's, Hedge's, 
Brownson's, each in turn. There were men who 
came after him, Samuel Johnson and David At- 
wood Wasson, who are to be preferred before him 
as exponents of the Transcendentalist philosophy. 
There never was a more English mind than Par- 
ker's, and because it was so English, it was not 
metaphysical. Coleridge flouted the understand- 
ing, and Parker inclined to his disparagement, but 
a capacious understanding was his most charac- 
teristic intellectual gift. The ease — if I should 
not say the inevitableness — with which he lapsed 
from "the high priori road " to the plodding foot- 
path of scientific induction is significant of this. 
His passion for facts, his stomach for statistics, 


was fundamental to his mind. Buckle's delight in 
statistics was not more keen. His journal has 
great piles of them, ranging all the way from West 
India rum to the Egyptian dynasties. Not infre- 
quently we find him inductive in the very act of 
stating his position as a Transcendentalist. For 
example : — 

Then Transcendentalism uses the other mode, the 
a posteriori . . . [In its argument for God] it finds 
signs and proofs of him everywhere, and gains evidence 
of God's existence in the limits of sensational experi- 
ence. ... At the ends of my arms are two major 
prophets, ten minor prophets, each of them pointing the 
Transcendental philosopher to the infinite God of which 
he has consciousness without the logical process of in- 

We have this same Transcendentalism with an 
inductive attachment in the following expression : 

Transcendentalism has a work to do, to show that 
physics, politics, ethics, religion, rest on facts of neces- 
sity, and have their witness and confirmation in facts 
of observation. 

Apart from this confusion, whereby Transcen- 
dentalism is set to do the drudgery of Science, 
Parker never is disdainful of the aid and comfort 
which is brought by Science to the transcendental 
intuitions. Variations of Paley's argument from 
design appear frequently in his discussions, and 
make up the bulk of them. But Transcendental- 
ism furnished him with an admirable formula of 
his personal religion, and the formula reacted on 


the religion in the happiest manner. He would 
have been shorn of much of his public strength if 
he could have offered his glorious trinity of God, 
Immortality, and the Moral Law as merely the 
data of his own private faith. To offer them as 
truths of human nature and the human mind, as 
such, was quite another matter. Professor Dow- 
den, writing of "Julius Caesar," suggests that 
Shakespeare means " to signify to us unobtrusively 
that the philosophical creed which a man professes 
grows out of his character and circumstances so 
far as it is really a portion of his own being ; and 
that so far as it is received by the intellect in the 
calm of life from teachers and schools, such a 
philosophical creed does not adhere very closely to 
the soul of a man, and may, upon the pressure of 
events or passions, be cast aside." It was because 
Parker's Transcendentalism grew out of his char- 
acter that it was so vital. But because the soul's 
form does not always, or often, shape the body of 
the philosophic creed, his inferences from creed to 
character were liable to possible mistake. 

Were it so sure, as many think, that the pendu- 
lum of thought has swung back from intuitional- 
ism to sensationalism in these last years, the intui- 
tionalism of Parker and his contemporaries would 
not be thereby dishonored. It was a valid protest 
against the sensationalism of their time, and if the 
sensationalism of the present time has better stand- 
ing, it is, in good part, because the transcendental 
criticism upon it has been taken well to heart. In 


Parker's time it was generally assumed that mate- 
rialists could not be idealists in spite of Berke- 
ley's important evidence to the contrary, in his own 
person, which evidence did not escape Parker's 
scrutiny. In our own time Science is as idealistic 
as Metaphysics. 1 " 4 What is matter ? ' l Never 
mind,' ' was formerly a good joke. It is very 
pointless now, seeing that matter, as we know it, 
is "mind-stuff" for the most part. Moreover, 
the pendulum has swung back not a little from 
the sensational side. Thomas Hill Green, the two 
Cairds, Bosanquet, Ritchie, Henry Jones, Bradley, 
Alexander, Wallace, Watson, Royce, all sitting 
rather loose to Hegel, but nothing if not meta- 
physical, have ridden well and brought impor- 
tant news. The persuasion is gathering strength 
that Science at her best can only write a Book 
of Exodus ; that the Book of Genesis is a book 
of metaphysics. In the meantime Experientialism 
has enlarged its borders. Sensationalism does not 
now exhaust it as it did formerly. 2 Mind is seen 
to be a fact which also is somewhat, and the at- 
tempt to construct a rational conception of the 
universe from the world below man is felt to be 
a palpable absurdity. 

It was so much Parker's habit to set his spe- 
cial lesson in a frame of general ideas that we 
have many statements of his philosophical position. 

1 See Huxley's " Bishop Berkeley on the Metaphysics of Sen- 
sation," in Critiques and Addresses. 

2 In Professor Royce's exposition it includes Metaphysics. See 
his The World and the Individual, p. 259. 


With much general resemblance, one notes a cer- 
tain latitude and looseness of expression. He did 
not use philosophical language with a nice exact- 
ness. His most elaborate statement is contained in 
" Transcendentalism," a lecture written about 1850, 
and first published in 1876 by the Free Religious 
Association. It covers about forty pages, and 
twenty-five of these are exhausted by an arraign- 
ment of the Sensational School. Probably it would 
not have been accepted as a true bill by any rev- 
erent disciple of Locke, and certainly it is not a 
fair account of Sensationalism in its evolutionary 
form, which was just beginning to emerge when 
Parker died. One cannot help wondering whether 
he would have made any terms with this, if it had 
come in time for him to reckon with it. Would 
he have recognized any validity in the claim that 
certain truths are necessary, not because we can, 
but because we cannot transcend experience ? — 
being irresistibly persuaded that the thing which 
always has been, always will be. 

In the tractate, " Transcendentalism," he criti- 
cises Sensationalism under the heads of Physics, 
Politics, Ethics, and Religion ; judging the tree by 
its fruits. This was a favorite way with him. It 
reflected his personal experience. His philosophi- 
cal ideas had profound reality for him ; they were 
a constant inspiration to his moral life. He as- 
sumed that it was so with others, and so drew out 
from the sensational philosophy what seemed to 
be its logical consequences with unsparing hand. 


Could any good come out of that poor Nazareth ? 
Not much, he thought ; but there were individual 
sensationalists who should have given him pause : 
Voltaire with his passionate humanity ; Franklin 
with his sturdy sense of political rights and duties 
and his large benevolence ; and many besides these. 
If he had lived a little longer he would have found 
Carlyle, the Transcendentalist, blind as a bat to the 
merits of our American struggle, and John Stuart 
Mill, the Sensationalist, as clear-eyed to them as 
Garrison. But Parker had a postern by which 
to escape from these practical difficulties : The 
Sensationalists did not know their own minds; 
they were half Transcendentalists and more, with- 
out knowing it. 

Coming to the religious application he was forti- 
fied by his first-hand knowledge of the Unitarian 
and other orthodoxy of his time, the alliance of 
which with the sensational philosophy was palpa- 
bly in evidence. It was of the very essence of 
sensational materialism to prefer a physical mira- 
cle as the evidence of Christian truth to the truth as 
its own evidence. In his " Foundations of Belief " 
Mr. Arthur Balfour has exhibited Christian super- 
naturalism as one of the grossest forms of Natural- 
ism, that being his word for what Parker called 
Sensationalism, choosing the better term. 

As with Sensationalism, so with Transcenden- 
talism : Parker spends little time on its primary 
concepts, much on its logical outcome. It is de- 
fined as the doctrine 


that man has faculties which transcend the senses ; fac- 
ulties which give him ideas and intuitions that tran- 
scend sensational experience ; ideas whose origin is not 
in sensation nor their proof from sensation ; that the 
mind (meaning thereby all that is not sense) is not a 
smooth tablet on which sensation writes its experience, 
but is a living principle which of itself originates ideas 
when the senses present the occasion ; that, as there is 
a body with certain senses, so there is a soul or mind 
with certain powers which give the man sentiments and 
ideas. ... It [the transcendental school] maintains 
that it is a fact of consciousness that there is in the in- 
tellect somewhat that was not first in the senses ; and 
also that they have analyzed consciousness and by the 
inductive method [sic] established the conclusion that 
there is a consciousness that never was sensation, never 
could be ; that our knowledge is in part a priori ; that 
we know, 1, certain truths of necessity ; 2, certain 
truths of intuition, or spontaneous consciousness ; cer- 
tain truths of demonstration, a voluntary consciousness ; 
all of these truths not dependent on sensation for cause, 
origin, or proof. 

This summoning of Caliban, — the Understand- 
ing, according to Lowell, — to prove his own in- 
competency, is only one of many helps that Pros- 
pero (the Transcendental Reason) gets from him 
in Parker's scheme. Our evolutionary psychology 
affects this matter sensibly. Even with Parker 
the intellect was not a constant, and it was not 
mind as mind, but mind acting under the most 
favorable conditions, that did all the fine things 
transcending sense and reflection. But if mind is 
an evolutionary product, its original capacity must 


have been slight as compared with the most ordi- 
nary modern mind, and we are interested to know 
when it began to have its transcendental powers. 
Intellect, as an evolutionary refinement of sense- 
perception, hints at the possible evolution of the 
transcendental from the inductive intellect. As- 
sured of this, a radical distinction in the nature 
of the two would be improbable. In any case 
there must be Mind involved in the first stage of 
the ascending series or there could be none in the 
last. Evolution of a higher from a lower, except 
in virtue of an antecedent higher, is not to be con- 

I shall be less likely to do Parker injustice if I 
let him speak for himself. He describes Tran- 
scendentalism in Physics, Politics, Ethics, and Re- 

In Physics it starts with the maxim that the senses 
acquaint us actually with body and therefrom the mind 
gives us the idea of substance answering to an objective 
reality. Thus is the certainty of the material world 
made sure of. Then a priori it admits the uniformity 
of action in nature ; and its laws are known to be uni- 
versal and not general alone. 

Evidently the doctrine here has more the con- 
creteness of Parker's mind than the warrant of 
the German schools. He admits the evils that 
have come from drawing out a system of Nature 
from the transcendental "nature of things" and 
specifies the blunders of Schelling. Those of 
Hegel were more utterly absurd. The haste with 


which Parker passes directly from Physics to Poli- 
tics is eloquent of where his treasure was and his 
heart also. Transcendental Politics 

does not so much quote precedents, contingent facts of 
experience, as ideas, necessary facts of consciousness. 
It only quotes the precedent to illustrate the idea. It 
appeals to a natural justice, natural right ; absolute jus- 
tice, absolute right. Now the source and original of 
this justice and right it finds in God — the conscience 
of God ; the channel through which we receive this 
justice and right is our own moral sense, our conscience ; 
which is our consciousness of the conscience of God. 

In Ethics Transcendentalism affirms that man has 
moral faculties which lead him to justice and right 
and by his own nature can find out what is right and 
just and can know it and be certain of it. Right is to 
be done come what will come. . . . While experience 
shows what has been or is, conscience shows what should 
be or shall. Transcendental ethics looks not to the con- 
sequence of virtue in this life or the next to lead men 
to virtue. That is itself a good, an absolute good, to 
be loved not for what it brings but is. 

Practically the lessons of experience meant much 
more for Parker than in this depreciation. He 
used them with tremendous force to marshal men 
the way that they should go. Coming to Reli- 
gion, he says : — 

Transcendentalism admits a religious faculty, ele- 
ment, or nature in man [a wide range in the choice of 
terms] as it admits a moral, intellectual and sensational 
faculty. . . . Through this we have consciousness of 
God as through the senses consciousness of matter. . . . 


The idea of God is a fact given in the consciousness of 
man : consciousness of the infinite is the condition of a 
consciousness of the finite ; . . . for if I am, and am 
finite and dependent, then this presupposes the infinite 
and independent. 

In all this we seem to miss the quality which 
distinguishes the metaphysical as a peculiar type 
of thought, and see why Martineau and others 
have not conceded to Parker metaphysical ability. 
What his philosophy actually signified was his 
abounding confidence in the realities of the moral 
and religious life. The sensational system repelled 
him because it set the senses higher than the soul 
and endeavored to recommend spiritual truths to 
him by physical marvels. He erected into a sys- 
tem of philosophic certainty his inborn and inbred 
faith in God, Immortality, and Conscience. It 
had a certain formal resemblance to other transcen- 
dental systems of his time, but the personal equa- 
tion in it was immense and all important. His 
mother's part in it was much greater than Kant's 
or Schelling's. Its simplicity constituted for him 
one of its greatest attractions, so manifestly did 
that simplicity make it apprehensible to the great 
majority of people whom Parker wished to influ- 
ence and impress with his ideas. Few have had 
his robust capacity for belief in the great things 
of religion. Hardly could he imagine other men 
as having less. It taxed his ingenuity to recon- 
cile particular disbelief in God or Immortality 
with universal consciousness of these. But what a 


coign of vantage was the persuasion of that con- 
sciousness in others and in his own lofty mind! 
It is not strange that thousands heard him gladly. 
It is strange that every thousand was not ten. 
For men could not resist the high contagion of a 
faith so pure and bold. They could not but be- 
lieve themselves entitled to his absolute confidence 
in God and Man and God's Voice in Man's Heart. 
The higher ranges of Parker's philosophy and 
theology run up into one central peak of which we 
get many different views as we follow him from 
one book or sermon to another. It is hard to 
choose put of the many. If we let him decide we 
shall go for the best statement of his theology to 
his " Theism, Atheism, and the Popular Theology " 
(1853). He begins by painting-in a sombre back- 
ground, the commingling gloom of two sermons on 
Speculative and Practical Atheism and two others 
on the Speculative and Practical Working of the 
Popular Theology. He found the amount of real 
atheism much less than the apparent. Given belief 
in Nature as the cause of its own existence, the 
Mind of the Universe and the Providence thereof, 
and the denial of God is only formal and not 
real : " The name is of the smallest consequence. 
All those men that I know, who call themselves 
atheists, really admit the existence of all the qual- 
ities I speak of." " The real Speculative Atheist 
denies the existence of the qualities of God ; de- 
nies that there is any Mind in the Universe, any 
self-conscious Providence, any Providence at all." 


He then proceeds to work out the subjective effects 
of this theory as a theory of the world of matter, 
as a theory of individual life, and as a theory of 
the life of mankind. 

The most orthodox of Parker's contemporaries 
did not believe in theology more completely than 
he did, or in the influence which it exerts on human 
life. Ideas of all kinds were for him the great 
human forces. He could make the individual ex- 
ception, but that did not swerve him from his faith 
in the general operation of ideas, good and ill, 
upon the social mass ; and he never tired of draw- 
ing out the subjective and objective effects of the 
ideas he revered and those which he abhorred. 
He drew out with great force the logical results 
of real atheism upon men's thought of Nature and 
the individual and social life. Then he turned to 
"Practical Atheism, regarded as a Principle of 
Ethics," and showed how a man would act who 
should translate the terms of a real speculative 
atheism into the terms of individual and social 
life. The applications to domestic life and politics 
were very close indeed. The power of these ser- 
mons was in their entire sincerity. The preacher 
did not endeavor to excite a horror which he did 
not feel. Atheism, speculative and practical, was 
for him something so monstrous that his command 
of language, which was great, was inadequate to 
express all that he felt. The strong -built sen- 
tences stagger under a burden of imaginative 
misery that is too great for them to bear. 


In the popular theology he finds five great 
truths : " the existence of God, the immortality of 
man, the moral obligation of man to obey the law 
of God, the connection between God and man " 
[inspiration, prayer], and the connection of love 
between man and man." He says, " These are, I 
think, by far the most important speculative doc- 
trines known to the human intellect." But he does 
not dwell on them. He passes to the " great de- 
fects " of the system, its finite and imperfect God, 
selfish and cruel, while the Devil, " the unacknow- 
ledged but most effective fourth person in the God- 
head," is " stronger than God the Father, God the 
Son, and God the Holy Ghost, all united." " The 
doctrine concerning Man is no better." The par- 
ticulars need not be repeated. They are those 
of every well authenticated exposition of the tra- 
ditional theology. The doctrines of original sin, 
total depravity, election, atonement, eternal hell, 
are painted in colors to which black is rosy red. 
Summing up, he said, — 

God is not represented as a friend, but as the worst 
foe to men ; existence is a curse to all but one of a hun- 
dred thousand ; immortality is a curse to ninety-nine out 
of every hundred thousand on earth ; religion is a bless- 
ing to only ten in a million ; to all the rest a torment on 
earth, and in hell. 

As between no God at all and " a God who is 
Almighty but omnipotently malignant," and "a 
universe which is itself an odious and inexorable 
hell," he did not hesitate to choose. Let it by all 


means be no God. Those who thought he had done 
his worst for the popular theology came again the 
next Sunday to find that he had not. The subject 
was " The Popular Theology of Christendom re- 
garded as a principle of Ethics." The text was, 
"A corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit." His 
purpose was to set forth the logical effects of such 
a system and he did it well. He was a master in 
this kind. He exhibited these effects as corrupting 
the Feelings, the Intellect, the Practical Life, not 
only logically but actually. It was an exhibition to 
make one's whole head sick, one's whole heart faint. 
No account of Parker's preaching can be com- 
plete that does not make due mention of his terri- 
ble denunciations of the popular theology. These 
fixed his standing in the orthodox imagination of 
his time. Their proportion to the sum total of his 
preaching has been much misunderstood. They fre- 
quently recurred, but seldom in such mass as in the 
sermons now under consideration ; oftener as inci- 
dental strokes. Much oftener he dwelt upon the 
dignity and glory of that higher faith to which he 
had attained. It is above all things necessary that, 
in our estimate of such preaching, we should con- 
sider the important theological changes which have 
taken place within the last half century. We read 
these awful indictments and we say, " Nobody be- 
lieves such things now." This is not true, and we 
are much too apt to impute the liberality of some 
to all. Moreover they are explicit or implicit in 
the creeds which the churches stiffly decline to 


change ever so little. But it is true that there are 
now hundreds of books written by men snugly en- 
sconced in one orthodox connection or another who 
repudiate Calvinism as passionately as did Theo- 
dore Parker ; there are hundreds of preachers 
standing in orthodox pulpits, with no one to molest 
or make them afraid, while they make substan- 
tially his damning accusations. One of these, Dr. 
A. W. Momerie, declares, " The orthodox idea of 
God is the most horrible idea that it is possible for 
the imagination to conceive ; " and Dr. Henry J. 
Van Dyke, loaded with Presbyterian honors, says 
of the God once reverenced, " To worship such a 
God would be to worship an omnipotent devil," " a 
nightmare horror of monstrosity, infinitely worse 
than no God at all." Such examples might easily 
be multiplied a hundredfold. Had orthodoxy been 
in Parker's time the painted flame which it is 
now in many pulpits, he would have dealt with 
it less vehemently, though he might well have 
demanded a more nice conformity between the ac- 
cepted creed and the habitual speech. It was be- 
cause the God of his apprehension was infinite in 
every possible perfection that he resented with hot 
indignation the horrible caricatures and slanders 
of the popular theology. He had given them a 
fair trial in his young manhood in Lyman Beecher's 
Hanover Street Church, and he hated them with 
a perfect hatred for men's sake as much as God's. 
He was at little pains, however, to measure 
orthodoxy by the emphasis that was laid upon its 


better parts, or by the moral ideals that were in- 
volved both in its more popular representations 
and its more refined interpretations. It is what 
men love that makes them good or bad, and not 
many loved the God fashioned in the furnace-heat 
of Edwards's pitiless imagination, or hewn by Cal- 
vin's frozen steel. It is not a theology as a species 
which is most significant, but its variations that 
are selected by the common sense and good will of 
the majority. If we find scant recognition of this 
fact in Parker's preaching it is still likely that his 
means were well adapted to the end he had in 

Having painted-in his sombre background with 
remorseless hand, he proceeded to dash in against 
it five sermons of heroic size, the first " Specula- 
tive Theism regarded as a Theory of the Universe." 
He distinguished Theism not only from Atheism 
and the Popular Theology, but also from Deism, 
which affirms a moral God, " but still starts from 
the sensational philosophy, abuts in materialism, 
and so gets its idea of God solely from external 
observation and not at all from consciousness, and, 
accordingly, represents God as finite and imper- 
fect." At this point his readers are referred back 
to former statements of his fundamental theo- 
logy. These, as found in the " Discourse," start 
from the sense of dependence which seems to have 
been Schleiermacher's contribution. This is the 
sentiment of God, of the Infinite, the vague heno- 
iheism on which Dr. Max Miiller has insisted a 


good deal. Besides this wejaave the idea of God 
as infinite in power, wisdap, and goodness. This 
idea is given in consciousness, and is " the logi- 
cal condition of all other ideas," and yet, in- 
consistently thinks Martineau, is " afterwards 
fundamentally and logically established by the 
a priori argument." The conception of God is 
something less simple than the idea, but as Parker 
sometimes apparently confounds the sentiment and 
the idea, so, again, he sometimes apparently con- 
founds the idea and the conception. 1 God as in- 
finite must have all possible perfections, — " the 
perfection of being, self -existence, eternity of du- 
ration, endless and without beginning ; of power, 
all-mightiness ; of mind, all-knowingness ; of con- 
science, all-righteousness ; of affection, all-loving- 
ness; of soul, all-holiness, absolute fidelity to 
himself." 2 Being perfect in himself, everything 
that proceeds from him must be perfect, the uni- 
verse adequate for its uses ; man adequate for his 
functions. There seems to be no apprehension 
that in passing out into finiteness the Infinite must 
deliberately or perforce forego its infinite perfec- 
tion, — " Life, like a dome of many-colored glass," 
staining " the white radiance of eternity." But in 
practice he sufficiently qualified the perfection of 

1 " He is too ardent to preserve self -consistency throughout the 
parts of a large abstract scheme ; too impetuous for the fine anal- 
ysis of intricate and evanescent phenomena." Martineau : Per- 
sonal and Political Essays, p. 154. 

2 By analysis of the reflective conception he found in it substan- 
tially what was given in the intuitional idea. 


all tilings when lie came to Northern dough-faces 
and Southern kidnappers; to Mr. Facing Both 
Ways in the pulpit and Mr. Worldly Wiseman in 
the pew. 

Denounced by many as a Pantheist, and warned 
by Martineau of his Pantheistic tendency, Parker 
was careful to distinguish his Theism from either 
material Pantheism, which resolves God into the 
material universe, or spiritual Pantheism, which 
resolves the material universe into God. If his 
doctrine of God everywhere and always immanent 
in matter and in man has often a Pantheistic fall, 
it finds its practical correction in a doctrine of 
God as "our Father and our Mother," which is 
warmly and tenderly anthropomorphic, and Marti- 
neau had little cause to fear that in his conception 
of God's immanence in man, as in matter, the 
divine inundation would swamp the human will. 
Perhaps logically it should have done so, but then 
God's immanence in man was not for Parker 
quite the same as his immanence in matter. It 
was the divine possibility conditioned by the organ- 
ization of the individual and his deliberate faith- 
fulness. This was his doctrine of universal inspi- 
ration, to which he recurred more frequently than 
to any other, and which, of all his theological doc- 
trines, had the most religious and ethical signifi- 

"Of God as perfect Cause: the Infinite God 
must create all from a perfect motive, for a perfect 
purpose, of perfect material, as perfect means." — 


" Next of God as perfect Providence : Creation and 
Providence are but modifications of the same func- 
tion. Creation is momentary providence ; Provi- 
dence, perpetual creation." " In Nature God is 
the only Cause, the only Providence," but in man 
there is an element of freedom, yet here also God 
is perfect Providence. The freedom is not exclu- 
sive of the providence. " The quantity of human 
oscillation with all its consequences must be per- 
fectly known to God before the creation." 

Though human caprice and freedom be a contingent 
force, yet God knows human caprice when He makes 
it, knows exactly the amount of that contingent force, 
all its actons, movements, history, and what it will 
bring aboujfe And as He is an infinitely wise, just, and 
loving C&\mc and Providence, so there can be no abso- 
lute evil or imperfection in the world of man more than 
in the world of matter, or in God himself. 

These doubtful matters are developed with great 
elaboration and much effective illustration in three 
sermons which conclude the volume on Theism, etc. 
The subjects are " Providence," " The Economy 
of Pain," and the " Economy of Moral Error." 
His doctrine of Providence is so inclusive and so 
optimistic that it baulks at no fact, however ugly, 
in the natural or human world. Man's partial 
freedom makes a great difficulty, but it is not too 
great for him to grapple with and satisfactorily 
master, himself the judge. A half page goes to 
the description of an old oak-tree, broken, crooked, 
gnarled, and yet a microcosmos, serving many 


uses, sustaining many happy lives. A score of 
farm-lore recollections went to the growing and 
the peopling of that tree. He takes it for a symbol 
of the world, which we judge as the lumberman 
judges the old oak, merely with reference to our 

How little do we know ! A world without an alliga- 
tor, or a rattlesnake, or a hyena, or a shark, would 
doubtless be a very imperfect world. The good God 
has something for each of these to do ; a place for them 
all at His table, and a pillow for every one of them in 
Nature's bed. 

In the discussions of Pain and Moral Error, 
Parker's method is mainly inductive. God being 
perfect, there can be no absolute harm in either, 
but he does not leave the matter here, and for the 
rest, he writes, as Mr. Frothingham has said, in 
the manner of a Bridgewater Treatise. Physical 
and moral pain are justified as warnings and de- 
terrents, saving from worse mishaps. 1 His doc- 
trine of sin was not evangelical, — not enough so 
even for James Freeman Clarke, who, preaching 
at the Music Hall, when Parker's preaching was 
all done, made certain criticisms on his teachings, 
to which Parker replied : — 

Now a word about sin. It is a theological word and 
commonly pronounced ngsin-n-n-n I But I think the 

1 Professor Royce, Problems of Good and Evil, pp. 8, 9, treats 
this argument with absolute scorn, but, if it does not touch the 
root of evil, it is very instructive in regard to our behavior towards 
" the God of things as they are." 


thing which ministers mean by ngsin-n-n-n has no more 
existence than phlogiston, which was once adopted to 
explain combustion. I find sins, i. e., conscious viola- 
tions of natural right, but no sin, i. e., no conscious 
and intentional preference of wrong (as such) to right 
(as such) ; no condition of " enmity against God." 

There follows an imaginary conversation with 
Deacon Wryface of the Hellfire Church, who 
repudiates all his special sins, but clings with 
desperate conviction to his consciousness of the 
general ngsin-n-n-n of his fallen natur\ " Oh, 
James," he continues, " I think the Christian (?) 
doctrine of sin is the Devil's own and I hate it — 
hate it utterly." Whatever he might think of 
sin in the abstract, no one of his generation had a 
clearer sense of concrete sins than he, or struck at 
them more powerfully. It was as if he conserved 
all the energy that others wasted on " the com- 
mon ground of evil in human nature " to make his 
fight with concrete sins more indomitable and effec- 

As he worked out the practical effects of Athe- 
ism and the Popular Theology, so he works out the 
practical effects of Theism ; man's perfect confi- 
dence in his own nature and destiny " plain as the 
farmer's road to mill ; " the absolute love of God 
as the Beauty of Truth, Justice, Love, Holiness, 
and as the total Infinite Beauty ; a perfect trust 
in Him as Cause and Providence ; "a real joy in 
God, the highest joy and the highest delight of 
the human consciousness ; " a Beauty of Soul, " a 


harmonious whole of well-proportioned spiritual 
parts," " a continual and constant growth in all 
the noble qualities of man." With these subjec- 
tive effects there are others, objective, but not more 
practical : keeping the Body's law without asceti- 
cism or excess ; keeping the law of the Spirit, 
"giving each spiritual faculty its place in the 
housekeeping of the spirit ; " and the true scale of 
spiritual values, first Intellect ; next higher, Con- 
science ; next the affections ; highest of all the re- 
ligious faculty, u the Soul, that seeks the infinite 
Being, Father and Mother of the Universe, loves 
Him with perfect love and serves Him with per- 
fect trust." Theism has its domestic form, and that 
is pictured forth with glowing words, warm from 
the preacher's heart ; it has its social form, which 
is commercial, political, and ecclesiastical, and, oh, 
the difference between these and the forms natu- 
rally consequent on Atheism or the Popular The- 

There are parts of Parker's theological system 
which have not been considered in this survey. 
They will find their place in connection with other 
phases of his life and work. Among them are his 
views of prayer, and immortality. He does not 
lend himself graciously to condensation or abstrac- 
tion, and thinking of the pages from which I have 
drawn out the foregoing statements, as much as 
possible in his own words, I am painfully aware 
of their inadequacy, so thin and meagre do they 
appear in comparison with the abounding flood of 


his discourse, bearing great argosies of sumptuous 
illustration on its rushing tide. And yet, it is not 
Parker speaking as philosopher or theologian who 
is most at home and speaks in the most friendly 
voice. His formal statements are his least sat- 
isfactory performances. Happily these are fre- 
quently invaded by his religious genius and by this 
invasion made as much more beautifid as is the 
body's framework by its investiture of gleaming 
flesh. His theology, almost equally with his phi- 
losophy, was an heroic but not quite successful 
endeavor to render his spontaneous religiousness 
in such terms of the intellect as would enable him 
to communicate to others that which was to him 
so wonderfully sweet. Not that he would have 
dominion over their faith, but that he would be a 
helper of their joy. 



It having been resolved, January 22, 1845, 
" that Theodore Parker shall have a chance to be 
heard in Boston,'' on the 16th of February he began 
to preach in the Melodeon and continued preaching 
there until 1852. The great sermon on Webster 
was one of the last preached there, October 31st. 
It should have had the Music Hall for the multi- 
tudes who came to hear. The Melodeon was not 
an attractive house of worship. In his last ser- 
mon there, November 14th, Parker described its 
character : — 

We must bid farewell to these old walls. They have 
not been very comfortable. All the elements have been 
hostile. The winter's cold has chilled us ; the summer's 
heat has burned us ; the air has been poisoned with con- 
taminations, a whole week long in collecting ; and the 
element of earth, the dirt, that was everywhere. As I 
have stood here, I have often seen the spangles of opera 
dancers, who beguiled the previous night, lying on the 
floor beside me. . . . The associations commonly con- 
nected with this hall have not been of the most agreeable 
character. Dancing monkeys and " Ethiopian serenad- 
ers," making vulgar merriment out of the ignorance and 
wretchedness of the American slave, have occupied this 


spot during the week, and left their marks, their instru- 
ments, and their breath behind them on Sunday. Could 
we complain of such things ? I have often thought we 
were well provided for, and have given God thanks for 
these old but spacious walls. The early Christians wor- 
shiped in caverns of the ground. In the tombs of dead 
men did the only live religion find its dwelling-place in 
Rome. . . . 

This passage is significant of the fact that after 
seven years of this experience Theodore Parker 
still kept unspoiled the instincts of the New Eng- 
land minister, his love for all the homely decencies 
of New England worship. It was " Paradise for 
hell," during his first Boston year, to get back 
" home," as he called it, in the afternoon, to the 
West Roxbury meeting-house, where he continued 
preaching until January, 1846. No. 413 was his 
last sermon there, and, against its number and title 
in his index, he wrote, " Here sorrowfully I end 
my connection with the parish in West Roxbury. 
Alas, me ! " There were many things in the new 
order that jarred upon his sensibility, but when it 
troubled him to have people reading their news- 
papers before service, and he told them so, his 
heart misgave him, remembering how precious to 
him had been a half-hour's reading in his youth. 
When at last there were 7000 (!) names upon his 
parish register, they were burdensome to him be- 
cause he would fain have been a pastor to them 
all, as to the sixty families in West Roxbury. 
That he could not be, yet, to the limits of his ca- 


pacity and beyond, he kept up the fine old pastoral 
tradition which was in his blood and bones. 

The first Sunday in Boston was cold, dark, and 
rainy and the streets were full of sodden snow, but 
there was no lack of eager listeners to the sermon 
which had one of those titles which he liked to for- 
mulate, " The Indispensableness of True Religion 
for Man's Welfare in his Individual and Social 
Life." His last Boston sermon was on the same 
subject, though with a briefer title, " What Reli- 
gion may do for a Man," and all the sermons of 
the fourteen intervening years were variations of 
the initial theme. The success of the enterprise 
exceeded Parker's hope and that of his more san- 
guine friends. A congregation, filling the dingy 
hall, flocked to him from all parts of the city and 
from the suburban towns. Very soon it took on 
the character which, once established, it maintained 
throughout the period allotted him, so tragically 
brief. Not many of the rulers and the Pharisees 
believed on him, but with an erratic photosphere 
of iconoclasts and fanatics and Adullamites, there 
was a central mass of character equal to the best 
that Boston Unitarianism could afford, with an 
amount of intellectual independence and engage- 
ment in social enterprises of great pith and moment 
not to be found elsewhere. Any enumeration 
would be imperfect and unjust. But may I not 
adorn my page with a few names to which many 
could be added, of equal if not greater weight 
than some of these ? What a noble company was 


that which included such men as John R. Manley, 
Charles Ellis, Robert E. Apthorp, Parker's " be- 
loved John," — my own good friend John Ayres, 
who had an equal passion for gardening and for 
the care of poor children (like these to him turned 
Parker's latest thoughts), — Deacon 1 Samuel May, 
the reformers William Lloyd Garrison and Samuel 
Gridley Howe, 2 and Francis Jackson, with such 
younger men as Rufus Leighton, Charles M. Ellis, 
Frank B. Sanborn, Charles W. Slack, and John C. 
Haynes, as loyal to Parker's memory as to the living 
man. The women of the congregation were not a 
whit behind the men in their intelligence and coop- 
eration and large-hearted sympathy. They were 
such as Mary Goddard May, the Deacon's wife, 
noted for all good works, fit mother for such a son 
as Samuel May of Leicester, Caroline Healey (later 
Mrs. Dall), Hannah Stevenson, Caroline Thayer, 
Rebecca and Matilda Goddard, Julia Ward Howe, 
Mrs. Eliza Apthorp, and her sister Sarah Howe, 
Ednah D. Cheney, — women of whom we may not 
say " the world was not worthy," but who were 

1 A title brought over from the Hollis Street church, in which 
he had been one of Pierpont's stanchest friends. 

2 Ultimately Dr. Howe did not find his religious nature, mean- 
ing his inherited tastes, satisfied by Parker's ministration, and 
would have gone with his family to King's Chapel, but Mrs. 
Howe compromised on James Freeman Clarke. See Mrs. Howe's 
Reminiscences for other aspects of the matter which was to Par- 
ker one of the sorest of his many griefs. The wound was deep 
when such a man as Dr. Howe questioned the sufficiency of his 
spiritual methods and results. There was no rupture of their 
personal friendship nor of their cooperation for the public good. 


worthy of the world and by their qualities and vir- 
tues bettered it. Some of them whose inflexions 
are still those of the present tense and active mood 
must pardon me if I offend by speaking out their 

In November, 1845, the Twenty-Eighth Con- 
gregational Society of Boston was organized as 
" a body for religious worship." Before long the 
name was sweeter than honey upon Parker's lips. 
He could not say " The Twenty-Eighth " and not 
caress the words. Even the printed page pre- 
serves the loving touch. The longed-for child 
could not have been more passionately loved. The 
installation service, January 4, 1846, was severely 
Congregational, the minister and people having it 
entirely to themselves. He would have had to go 
about the whole country to get together enough 
ministers for an ordinary installation service. His 
sermon, " The Idea of a Christian Church," was 
the fullest exposition that he ever gave of that 
idea, and it prefigured an ideal to which his min- 
istry was true as is the needle to the pole. He 
denned the church as " a body of men and women 
united together in a common desire of religious 
excellence and with a common regard for Jesus of 
Nazareth, regarding him as the noblest example of 
morality and religion." " Its essential of substance 
is the union for the purpose of cultivating love to 
God and man ; and the essential of form is the 
common regard for Jesus, considered as the high- 
est representation of God that we know." Here 


it will be noticed there is a general resemblance to 
the present basis of the National Unitarian Con- 
ference, but with an emphasis upon the personal 
Jesus which that basis does not express. Parker's 
statement would have been hailed by the conser- 
vatives of the Unitarian body in 1894, when the 
present basis was adopted, with "tumult of ac- 
claim," while the more radical could hardly have 
been brought up to the line of Parker's emphasis. 
But this did not mean an unattainable ideal. 

A Christian church should aim to have its members 
Christians as Jesus was the Christ, sons of man as he 
was, sons of God as much as he. ... If Jesus was ever 
mistaken, — as the evangelists make it appear, — then 
it is a part of Christianity to avoid his mistakes as well 
as to accept his truths. ... It is only free men that can 
find the truth, love the truth, live the truth. As much 
freedom as you shut out, so much falsehood do you shut 
in. . . . Every true church has a twofold action : first 
upon its own members ; second on others out of its pale. 

A Christian church should be a means of reforming 
the world, of forming it after the pattern of Christian 
ideas. ... It can teach much: now moderating the 
fury of men, then quickening their sluggish steps. . . . 
If the church he true, many things which are gainful in 
the street and expedient in the senate-house will here be 
set down as wrong, and all gain that comes therefrom 
seem to be but a loss. If there be a public sin in the 
land, if a lie invade the state, it is for the church to 
give the alarm ; it is here that it may war on lies and 
sins ; the more widely they are believed in and prac- 
ticed, the more are they deadly, the more to be opposed. 
Here let no false idea or false action of the public go 


without exposure or rebuke. But let no noble heroism 
of the times, no noble man pass without due honor. 

Here was a clear foreshadowing of the great 
anti-slavery preaching which was to crown his 
work, but which in 1846 had hardly been begun. 
Here, as it were in embryo, were the great ser- 
mons upon Adams and Webster, and at this point 
the sermon's lofty prose broke into the lyric rap- 
ture of Lowell's " Present Crisis," which then had 
had barely a year's repute. Over against "the 
church termagant," peevishly scolding at sin, he 
pictured the church militant, righting it manfully, 
and the church triumphant, doing glorious things 
for truth and righteousness. How far he was from 
failing to do Jesus ample reverence the following 
passage shows, while it must frankly be conceded 
that this lofty praise involved no supernatural 
trait : — 

Christianity is humanity ; Christ is the Son of man ; 
the manliest of men ; humane as a woman ; pious and 
hopeful as a prayer ; but brave as man's most daring 
thought. He has led the world in morals and religion 
for eighteen hundred years, only because he was the 
manliest man in it ; the humanest and bravest man in 
it, and hence the divinest. He may lead it eighteen 
hundred years more, for we are bid 1 to believe that 

1 Not his own thought, which somewhat too easily, as I have 
said, inferred from the general progress of humanity that the 
great souls of history would be transcended in its future course. 
They may be, but the general idea of progress has no such impli- 
cation. Our schoolboys know much more than Plato knew, and 
yet how rare the modern " Plato's brain " ! 


God can never make again a greater man ; no, none so 
great. But the churches do not lead men therein, for 
they have not his spirit ; neither that womanliness which 
wept over Jerusalem, nor that manliness which drew 
down fire enough from heaven to light the world's altars 
for well-nigh two thousand years. 

In the concluding part the preacher struck a 
favorite note — the backwardness of religion as 
compared with science and the useful arts, its dull- 
ness and deadness as compared with business 
enterprise : — 

In our day men have made great advances in science, 
commerce, manufactures, in all the arts of life. We 
need, therefore, a development of religion corresponding 
thereto. ... If a church can answer these demands, it 
will be a live church; leading the civilization of the 
times, living with all the mighty life of this age and 
nation. Its prayers will be a lifting up of the hearts in 
noble men towards God, in search of truth, goodness, 
piety. Its sacraments will be great works of reform, 
institutions for the comfort and culture of men. . . . 
If men were to engage in religion as in politics, com- 
merce, arts ; if the absolute religion, the Christianity of 
Christ, were applied to life with all the might of this 
age, as the Christianity of the church was once applied, 
what a result should we not behold ! We should build 
up a great state, with unity in the nation, and freedom 
in the people ; a state where there was honorable work 
for every hand, bread for all mouths, clothing for all 
backs, culture for every mind, and love and faith in 
every heart. Truth would be our sermon, drawn from 
the oldest of Scriptures, God's writing there in nature, 
here in man ; works of daily duty would be our sacra- 


ment ; prophets inspired of God would minister the 
word, and piety send up her psalm of prayer, sweet in 
its notes, and joyfully prolonged. The noblest monu- 
ment to Christ, the fairest trophy of religion, is a noble 
people, where all are well fed and clad, industrious, 
free, educated, manly, pious, wise, and good. 

Theodore Parker is associated so vividly with 
the Music Hall that, even where it is known, it is 
generally forgotten that for seven of the fourteen 
years of his Boston ministry he preached in the 
Melodeon. His last sermon there, November 14, 
1852, "Some Account of My Ministry," made 
good its title in the most frank and simple manner 
possible. Many the doubts and fears that were 
buried in the foundations of that happy confidence 
which now stood foursquare to all the winds that 
blow ! He said little of those in public. He con- 
fided them to his journal's privacy, which I must 
confess I have not invaded without serious misgiv- 
ings. Many a line was blotted with his manly 
tears. His self-consciousness was acute. Perhaps 
he thought and spoke too much about himself for 
his best health. But the trait was natural and it 
was aggravated by the circumstances of his life. 
It was far from vanity, but it meant the conscious- 
ness of great powers and great acquirements and 
great opportunities. It meant no calm self-sat- 
isfaction. Rather was he habitually dissatisfied 
with himself. No other note recurs in his journal 
so frequently as that of stern self-blame for his 
inadequate accomplishment. Tired out in body 


and in brain, all things looked dark to him. We 
have a more just account of his true self in such a 
passage as the following which occurs in the ser- 
mon on " The Position and Duty of a Minister " 
preached November 21, 1852 — the first in the 
Music Hall : — 

I have great faith in preaching ; faith that a reli- 
gious sentiment, a religious idea, will revolutionize the 
world to beauty, holiness, peace, and love. Pardon me, 
my friends, if I say I have faith in my own preaching ; 
faith that even I shall not speak in vain. You have 
taught me that. You have taught me to have a good 
deal of faith in my own preaching ; for it is your love 
of the idea which I have set before you, that has 
brought you together week after week, and now it has 
come to be year after year, in the midst of evil report 
— it was never good report. It was not your love for 
me : I am glad it was not. It was your love for my 
idea of man, of God, and of religion. I have faith in 
preaching, and you have given me reason to have that 

One desiring to know what Parker's position as 
a minister was and how he did his duty could not 
do better than to read the entire sermon, so closely 
was the actual conformed to the ideal therein set 

It was a happy fortune which enabled the 
Twenty-Eighth to avail itself of the Music Hall at 
a time when the congregation had manifestly out- 
grown the Melodeon and craved 

An ampler ether, a diviner air 


for its great preacher's voice. Built, as its name 
denotes, for musical performances, Music Hall, a 
brand-new building when the Twenty-Eighth se- 
cured it for its meetings, was a successful realiza- 
tion of the most careful study of the principles of 
acoustics, and it was as good for the speaking as 
for the singing voice and orchestra. The hall was, 
and is, 130 feet long, 78 feet wide, and 68 feet 
high ; its architecture simple and impressive, the 
light coming, as it should, from above ; by day 
through semicircular windows springing from a 
cornice 50 feet above the floor, by night from jets 
along the line of the cornice, which, at a Unitarian 
Festival, as I remember, Dr. William Everett com- 
pared to Milton's device for the illumination of 
the place of pain. Some thought the comparison 
unfortunate. There were chairs for 1500 on the 
main floor and for 500 more upon the stage, and 
700 more in the two narrow galleries or balconies 
which ran along the sides and rear. There was 
standing room for some 300 more, making a total 
capacity of 3000, which on special occasions was 
exhausted by the multitude who came to hear " the 
great American Preacher." The usual congregation 
filled the floor and overflowed into the galleries 
and upon the stage, where a kind of body-guard of 
personal friends generally sat, a little withdrawn 
from the preacher's central solitude. The great 
organ which was the glory of the Hall for many 
years was not introduced until 1863, when Parker 
had been three years dead, but Crawford's heroic 


statue of Beethoven was installed March 1, 1856, 
and the next morning furnished Parker with the 
inspiration of his sermon and his prayer. 

The service was of the plainest kind of the New 
England Puritan usage in which the preacher was 
brought up. The Bible was read with such omis- 
sions or amendments as his moral sense required, 
and other Scriptures, inspired because inspiring, 
were resorted to from time to time. The hymns 
were sung by a choir, from the " Book of Hymns " 
which Parker called "The Sam Book," because 
it was compiled by Samuel Johnson and Samuel 
Longfellow. Parker's reading of the hymns was 
the significant event for some. Sittings were free, 
the expenses being met by voluntary contributions 
from an inner circle of devoted friends, not even 
a collection being taken from the promiscuous 
crowd. Mr. Parker was always, as Mr. Frothing- 
ham puts it, " greedy of a small salary," and the 
current expenses were easily met ; too easily for 
the self-respect of those who gave nothing because 
nothing was required. 

The preacher was a man five feet eight inches 
tall ; in 1852 bald-headed, and ultimately, if not 
soon after, with a snowy beard. Mrs. Howe re- 
marks upon the contrast of his youthful face with 
his baldness as far back as 1844, but the youthful- 
ness did not persist. Inherited disease and over- 
work were fatal to its charm. The figure was not 
graceful ; the face was not handsome, though the 
blue-gray eyes were clear and had a penetrating 


light, sometimes as of a bayonet's gleam. This 
was veiled, however, in the pulpit, by the glasses, 
without which he could not read his manuscript, 
and he was a manuscript preacher ; only at times 
interjecting unwritten sentences and passages into 
the written form. There was that in the set of 
his mouth which spoke for his indomitable will, 
but the nose gave those who called his face Socratic, 
pretty much their sole excuse. That " rudder of 
the face," perhaps, was steering him sometimes 
when his course was not quite reverent of estab- 
lished forms and usages and important personages. 
Mr. Frothingham says, " He had no rhetorical 
gifts." What follows suggests that he meant ora- 
torical : " Neither was his figure imposing, nor his 
gesture fine, nor his action graceful." There was, 
in fact, little gesture or action. He stood still and 
sometimes raised his hand and let it fall heavily 
upon his desk — so much was all. But when Mr. 
Frothingham says, " The style was never dry ; the 
words were sinewy ; the sentences short and pithy ; 
the language was fragrant with the odor of the 
fields, and rich with the juices of the ground, 
passages of exquisite beauty bloomed on every 
page," he indicates rhetorical gifts — and more 
pointedly when he tells the story of a plain man 
who, having heard him, said, "Is that Theodore 
Parker ? You told me he was a remarkable man ; 
but I understood every word he said." Rhetoric 
is the art of persuasion, and Parker was a master 
of this art. Yet he made no appeals to passion. 


He spoke straight to men's intelligence and con- 
science and to the goodness of their hearts. No 
man ever depended less on anything extrinsic to 
the substance of his message than did he. 

Flowers grace ten thousand pulpits in the United 
States every Sunday morning as the century's end 
draws on apace. There was a time when Theodore 
Parker's pulpit had this grace in a quite solitary 
manner, and my earliest recollection of his name 
is in connection with the flowers upon his pulpit, 
instanced as one proof of his awful wickedness ; 
flat paganism, and no less. No flower-fund fur- 
nished them ; they were votive offerings of friends, 
who often gathered them with their own hands in 
their most secret haunts. The pulpit was a floral 
calendar, from week to week its violets or rhodoras, 
its wild roses, gentians, asters, keeping step with 
the procession of the flowers across the valleys and 
the hills. Once the blue gentians came from the 
borders of the little brook which flowed hard by 
the Lexington farmhouse. He plucked them there 
with thoughts unspeakable and brought them back 
to the city, where they bloomed double — on the 
desk and in his tender prayer. His own tenderness 
for flowers was very great. I trust he knew what 
Landor wrote : — 

I never pluck the rose ; the violet's head 
Hath shaken with my breath upon its bank 
And not reproached me ; the ever-sacred cup 
Of the pure lily hath between my hands 
Felt safe* unsoiled, nor lost one grain of gold. 


Here was a grace beyond his own which stayed his 
hand from careless ravaging and always left some 
blossoms of each wayside group for future seed. 
Similar was his kindness to all tiny creatures, and 
when his hostess in the country boasted of the 
prowess of her boy in capturing a grasshopper, Mr. 
Parker suddenly vanished from the table and in 
half a minute " the green little vaulter " was back 

in the sunny grass, 
Catching his heart up at the feel of June. 

We cannot be too grateful to Rufus Leighton 
and Matilda Goddard for their service in pre- 
serving for our perennial comfort and delight the 
forty prayers 1 which make up a little volume by 
themselves, and are also published in the second 
volume of Miss Cobbe's edition of Parker's works 
with the " Ten Sermons." Without these prayers 
our conception of Theodore Parker's Sunday ser- 
vices would be very different from what it is, with 
these to soften it and wreathe its harsher lines 
with blossoms of the wood and field. We should 
still have had the prayers which his journal folds 
between its leaves like sweet and fadeless flowers, 
but these would tell another story, very different 
from that told by the Leighton - Goddard book. 
One edition of this (1881) has a preface by Louisa 
M. Alcott, whose biography tells how helpful Mr. 
Parker was to her, and whose " Work," a story for 

1 Selected from many hundreds whose fleeting words they 
caught with careful reverence and tenderly encaged. 


young people, depicts him with a loving hand. The 
first time she heard him preach, the sermon was 
addressed to " laborious young women," and was 
full of paternal advice, encouragement, and sym- 

But the prayer that followed went straight to the 
hearts of those for whom he prayed, — not only com- 
forting by its tenderness, and strengthening by its brave 
and cheerful spirit, but showing them where to go for 
greater help, and how to ask it as simply and confid- 
ingly as he did. 

It was unlike any prayer I had ever heard ; not cold 
and formal, as if uttered from a sense of duty, not a 
display of eloquence, nor an impious directing of Deity 
in his duties toward humanity. It was a quiet talk 
with God, as if long intercourse and much love had 
made it natural and easy for the son to seek the Fa- 
ther, — confessing faults, asking help, and submitting 
all things to the All-wise and tender, as freely as chil- 
dren bring their little sorrows, hopes, and fears to their 
mother's knee. 

The slow, soft folding of the hands, the reverent bow- 
ing of the good gray head, the tears that sometimes 
veiled the voice, the simplicity, frankness, and devout 
earnestness, made both words and manner wonderfully 
eloquent ; and the phrase, " Our Father and our Mother 
God," was inexpressibly sweet and beautiful, — seem- 
ing to invoke both power and love to sustain and com- 
fort the anxious, overburdened hearts of those who lis- 
tened and went away to labor and to wait with fresh 
hope and faith. 

To one laborious young woman, just setting forth to 
seek her fortune, that Sunday was the beginning of a 
new life, that sermon like the scroll given to Christian, 


that prayer the God-speed of one who was to her, as to 
so many, a valiant Great-heart leading pilgrims through 
Vanity Fair to the Celestial City. 

As the prayer that morning found Louisa Alcott, 
so many another found some sorrowing, struggling, 
and despairing heart and wrought the needed help. 
He did not theorize much about prayer. He took 
it very much for granted. I have been surprised 
to find how little formal attention he gave to it in 
his sermons. 1 It was as if he did not care to 

peep and botanize 
Upon his mother's grave. 

It was for him the human side of inspiration, the 
opening of the mind, the heart, the conscience and 
the soul to receive the ever-present help of God. 
In his theology God was neither personal nor im- 
personal, but a reality transcending these distinc- 
tions. In his devotions God was as personal as 
his own father or mother, and he prayed to him 
as such, daringly indifferent to the anthropomor- 
phism of his unfettered speech. Prayer as "a 
moral gymnastic " had for him no attractions. It 
was for him a veritable communion of the human 
soul with the Divine Soul of the Universe, an ac- 
knowledgment of that sense of dependence which 
was fundamental to his religious philosophy, grati- 
tude for life in such a grand and beauteous world, 
aspiration for those perfections which withdraw as 
we advance, shame for those sins which were so 

1 But see the last of the Ten Sermons, " Communion with God," 
where the incidental treatment of prayer is uncommonly full. 


real to him, while theological sin was so unutter- 
ably vague. 

His philosophy and psychology and theology 
went far to give the general outline of his prayer. 
There were thanks for the soul's consciousness of 
God and Immortality and the Law of Righteous- 
ness, and for the fivefold riches of man's nature, — 
sense, intellect, conscience, affections, soul. There 
was frankest dealing with the various activities of 
human life, its business, politics, and domestic 
cares. The great sins of the nation were acknow- 
ledged, its great men remembered in their glory 
or their shame. Ever the various beauty of the 
world had timely praise, "the handsome stars," 
and " every little moss struggling through the city 
stones." And, with all the rest, there was oftener 
than not some word going straight to the hearts 
that were full of anxiety or grief. Others might 
not know for whom it was intended, but those who 
had confided their troubles to the great preacher 
had no doubt. 1 There were times when, before 
offering the prayer, the man felt as if he were " not 
in the spirit," but never once when with closed 
eyes he stood in the accustomed place. Then he 
became his people's heart and voice. " O God," 
prayed Father Taylor, " we are a widow with six 
children." As complete as this was Theodore 

1 Dr. E. Winchester Donald, Phillips Brooks's successor, writes 
me : " I have been a great reader of Parker's writings, including 
his prayers, which to me, with the exception of one or two blem- 
ishes, are wonderful outpourings of a heart in the conscious pre- 
sence of its Maker." 


Parker's identification of himself with the people 
who were his joy and crown. 

There were those who would have been content 
to go away after the prayer, feeling themselves 
filled and overfilled with the brave, kindly spirit 
of the man and his serene and joyful trust in God ; 
but for the majority the sermon was the indis- 
pensable part of the service. The new place of 
worship awoke the preacher to a new sense of 
his great opportunity. Like the doves that came 
flocking to his windows for the corn he kept pro- 
vided for their times of scarcity, came the subjects 
for the sermons he must preach. They were 
blocked out in 1852 for four years in advance, 
not without apprehension of such possible interca- 
lations as great occasions might demand. These 
in the event proved to be many, and too insistent 
to be put aside, while still the main thread of his 
intention was held fast. There was never any 
lack of preaching of the simplest kind, — not con- 
troversial, not theological, not sociological or re- 
formatory or political, but homiletical, expatiating 
on the homeliest every -day concerns of morals 
and religion. The " Ten Sermons of Religion,' ' 
preached and published in 1852, is a book that 
witnesses most graciously to this side of his work ; 
but there is another book, "Lessons from the 
World of Matter and the World of Man," a vol- 
ume of selections from his unpublished sermons, 
which bears ampler evidence to the same effect. 
It was compiled by Mr. Rufus Leighton from his 


stenographic notes. The controversial part is 
small, also the theological, except as this was in- 
volved in Parker's religiousness in an inextricable 
manner. But the book is as full of his religion 
as an egg is full of meat, and the religion is of 
the sweetest and most homely kind. There is no 
aspect of men's daily lives that does not get its 
appropriate and suggestive comment. 

This mountainous man was not so simple in his 
structure as he has sometimes been conceived. 
Those who imagine that the controversialist was all 
of him are like those who mistake the foot-hills of 
Shasta or Tacoma for the real mountain. Higher 
than the controversialist reached up the scholar 
and the critic ; higher still the philosopher and 
theologian ; far above these went up the preacher, 
the prophet, the believing soul, eager to share his 
joy with all his kind. One whose young life he 
touched with kindling flame has said to me, " He 
was the only religious man I ever knew." What 
he meant was that, compared with Theodore Par- 
ker, all his contemporaries seemed feeble in their 
faith and hope and love, their consciousness of 
God, their consecration to man's highest good. 
My own experience confirms that lofty praise. I 
have read hundreds of biographies, the majority 
those of religious thinkers and teachers, and I have 
nowhere encountered in the modern world a man 
whose religiousness has seemed to me so complete 
as Theodore Parker's, such a perpetual presence 
and delight, such an abiding strength and peace, 


such an abounding inspiration. I do not know o£ 
any other who believed so much, whose confidence 
was so robust, whose optimism was so undaunted 
by the facts that are not to be eluded or ignored. 
Here was his most characteristic quality. When 
I think of Theodore Parker I think of this ; not 
of his philosophy, which was the convenient for- 
mula and explanation of his threefold faith and his 
habitual certainty ; not of his learning, though this 
was mainly an expression of his human sympa- 
thy — his interest in all human things ; not even 
of his anti-slavery work, for this was but a single, 
albeit the highest, illustration of his prophetic 
gift ; not of these lesser heights, but of his genius 
for religion' and his passion for its communication 
which outsoared them all. 

In describing others he frequently described him- 
self, partly because what he described was less the 
fact than his ideal, and his ideal was actualized in 
him as is the sculptor's in the stone. Novalis said 
of Luther, " He was an absolute man : in him 
soul and body were not divided ; " and this could be 
said of Parker quite as veraciously. This, too, 
which Parker wrote of Luther : — 

In the language of the shop, the farm, the boat, the 
street, or the nursery, he told the high truths that reason 
and religion taught, and took possession of his audience 
by a storm of speech, pouring upon them all the riches 
of his brave plebeian soul, baptizing every head anew ; 
a man who with the people seemed more mob than they 
and with kings the most imperial. 


So, too, when he describes a greater than Luther, 
I cannot escape the persuasion that unconsciously 
he borrows colors from his own ruddy veins and his 
own loving heart. Certainly much of the descrip- 
tion applies as well to Parker of Lexington as to 
Jesus of Nazareth. 

He was uncommonly large-minded. . . . He was 
great-hearted, too, with conscience true and sensitive 
and a great deep religious soul. There lay his strength. 
It is not for his masterly intellect that I value him most, 
nor do you, nor does the world ; but for his religiousness. 
And so we commonly underrate the greatness of his in- 
tellect. It seems plain that he had that quick intuition 
which belongs eminently to woman, but which is the 
attribute of every man of high genius ; and that great 
width of comprehension which can generalize multiform 
principles to a universal form of truth ; and that per- 
ception which finds the beautiful in things homely, the 
sublime in things common, and the Eternal in what is 
daily and transient. ... In all history no great man has 
been so womanly as Jesus. . . . How he thundered and 
lightened, a great earthquake of eloquence, against the 
wickedness of his time ! That was the masculine side 
of Jesus. No spring sun was milder, softer, — tenderly 
kissing the first spring violets on the hillsides of West 
Roxbury, — than he to the penitent and self -faithful soul. 

From these accidental descriptions of Parker I 
turn to one wholly deliberate — that of Lowell in 
his " Fable for Critics." Though written in 1848, 
when Parker had not put forth half his strength, 
it is, for all its humorous exaggeration, the best 
description of the great preacher ever written. I 


have quoted part of it already, and now quote only 
another part, though all of it is marvelously good. 

Here comes Parker, the Orson of parsons, a man 
Whom the Church undertook to put under her ban. 

But the ban was too small or the man was too big", 
For he recks not their bells, books, and candles a fig ; 
(He scarce looks like a man who would stay treated shabbily, 
Sophroniscus' son's head o'er the features of Rabelais) ; — 
He bangs and bethwacks them, — their backs he salutes 
With the whole tree of knowledge torn up by the roots. 

Now P.'s creed than this may be lighter or darker, 

But in one thing, 't is clear, he has faith, namely — Parker ; 

And this is what makes him the crowd-drawing preacher, 

There 's a background of god to each hard-working feature ; 

Every word that he speaks has been fierily furnaced 

In the blast of a life that has struggled in earnest : 

There he stands, looking more like a ploughman than priest, 

If not dreadfully awkward, not graceful at least ; 

His gestures all downright and same, if you will, 

As of brown-fisted Hobnail in hoeing a drill ; 

But his periods fall on you, stroke after stroke, 

Like the blows of a lumberer felling an oak, 

You forget the man wholly, you 're thankful to meet 

With a preacher who smacks of the field and the street, 

And to hear, you 're not over-particular whence, 

Almost Taylor's profusion, quite Latimer's sense. 1 

We cannot do better, in our endeavor to 
appreciate the substance of Parker's preaching, 
than to take the line of his fivefold division of 
human nature : body, mind, conscience, heart, and 
soul. He believed that every part of the whole 
man has its appropriate inspiration and that the 
bodily senses, appetites, and passions are all essen- 

1 Quite Latimer's manner too. See, for example, Latimer's best 
known sermon, the first before Edward VI. 


tial to the completeness of humanity, which suffers 
equally from their neglect and their abuse. The 
spirit of the ascetic was not in him. His pulpit 
tone was often that of daring sympathy with the 
ardors of man's passional nature. A marriage in 
which they had no part was for him only a partial 
marriage. Walt Whitman had no fuller sense of 
the excellence of the human body in all its parts 
and functions than had Theodore Parker. " God put 
no bad thing there," he said ; " it is full of good 
things ; every bone from the crown to the foot is a 
good bone ; every muscle is a good muscle ; every 
nerve which animates the two is a good nerve." 
He did not tire of praising the body's beauty and 
its suppleness and its wonderful adaptation to its 
useful ends. 

Closely allied with this aspect of his preaching 
was another which suggests Whitman's poetry — 
his sympathy, as of Natura Naturans herself, the 
dear old Mother, with all our poor relations of the 
animal world. Morally, if not intellectually, his 
anticipation of Darwin was complete. Whitman 
could have borrowed from him all his admiration 
for the fecundity and felicity of that world without 
exhausting, or sensibly diminishing Parker's store. 
In the eighth of the " Ten Sermons," " Conscious 
Religion as a Source of Joy," there is a wonderful 
outburst of this sympathy : — 

The young fish you shall find even now on the shal- 
low beaches of some sheltered Atlantic bay, how happy 
they are ! Voiceless, dwelling in the cold unsocial ele- 



merit of water, moving with the flapping of the sea and 
never still amid the ocean waves' immeasurable length, 
— how delightful are these little children of God ! 
Their life seems one continuous holiday. Their food 
is plenteous as the water itself. . . . They fear no hell. 
These cold, white-fleshed, and bloodless little atomies 
seem ever full of joy as they can hold. 

The insects next allure him, — the butterfly so 
joyous " in his claret-colored robe, so daintily set 
off with a silver edge," "in the sunny sheltered 
spots in the woods with the brown leaves about 
him," — then "the adventurous birds," and 

Even the reptiles, the cold snake, the bunchy and ca- 
lumniated toad, the frog, now newly awakened from his 
hibernating sleep, have a joy in their existence which 
is complete and seems perfect. . . . How joyously the 
frogs welcome in the spring which knocks at the icy 
door of their dwelling and rouses them to new life ! 
What delight they have in their thin piping notes at 
this time, and in the hoarse thunders with which they 
will shake the bog in weeks to come ; in their wooing 
and their marriage song. . . . The young of all animals 
are full of delight ! . . . As they grow older they have 
a wider and a wiser joy, a quiet cheerfulness. The 
matronly cow, ruminating beside her playful and horn- 
less little one, is a type of quiet joy and entire satisfac- 
tion. . . . So is it with the spider, who is not the malig- 
nant kidnapper he is thought, but has a little harmless 
world of joy. 

He takes a handful of water from the rotting 
timbers of a wharf and finds it full of polyps, me- 
dusae, and the like, happy as if the world were 


made for them alone, and down here in the mud 
and scum of things he finds the beginnings of Con- 
scious Religion as a Source of Joy and the Soul's 
Normal Delight in the Infinite God which he cele- 
brated in a sermon with that title to the Progres- 
sive Friends of Longwood, Pa. (1858), one of the 
best expressions of his highest and most character- 
istic thought. 

In this connection, as fitly as in any other, due 
reference may be made to Parker's expansion and 
delight responsive to the various beauty of the 
world. To quote a hundred examples would be 
an easy matter, none of them didactic, but so spon- 
taneous that his preaching must have inspired the 
love of natural beauty in many hearts to which 
it had been strange. The beauty of youths and 
maidens had for him immense attraction, and he 
dwelt with frank sincerity upon the mystic yearn- 
ings which that beauty breeds in them ; his senti- 
ment unspoiled by any sentimental taint. Once, 
speaking of the stars, his language is too evidently 
a paraphrase of Emerson's " If the stars should 
appear one night in a thousand years," etc., on 
the first page of " Nature," but he could write as 
bravely as need be of the " few great, hardy, ven- 
turesome stars which endure the near approach of 
day," " seen by the early marketer, in rough gar- 
ments, riding through the darkness, bringing men's 
bread to town." This homely touch is never far 
away. Like Thoreau's Indian hatchets — found 
anywhere — are such passages as this : — 


Even in the city, in the commonest street, if it is only 
a little lonesome, small plants find board and lodging in 
the chinky stones, and lift their thin faces and seem to 
wish good-morning to the rapid-stirring man or maid 
who knows these little apostles and botanic ministers 
at large, who are meant to evangelize the world, and 
are without staff and scrip and who never chide the 
unthankful passenger. 

And all the beauty of the world was published 
— so he taught — as an assurance of God's love 
to men, and was a manifestation of the essential 
character of the Infinite Being. 

Parker's hierarchy of the human faculties was 
eloquent of his private character : Intellect, con- 
science, affection, religiousness — that was the or- 
der in which the realities of life made their appeal 
to him. He was, indeed, what George William 
Curtis called Charles Sumner, " Conscience incar- 
nate," but it was the human heart by which he 
lived as by no other grace. There was nothing 
arbitrary in his subordination of conscience to 
affection; it was the spontaneous election of his 
personality. Such was the order of precedence in 
his daily life. Great as he was in intellect and 
in conscience, he was greater in affection. When- 
ever I read of Mr. Great-heart in Bunyan, I always 
think of Theodore Parker as worthy of that honor- 
able name. 

Piety was not exhausted in the terms of his 
evaluation by any merely conscious relation of the 
soul to God. " The love of truth is the natural 


and instinctive piety of the mind." To the devel- 
opment of this intellectual piety he brought the 
wealth of many sermons ; over against the fidelity 
of science and philosophy showing the meanness 
of the churches and the theologians, with what 
Coleridge called their " orthodox lying for God," 
their timidity, and willful obscuration of the most 
obvious facts. It was to education as an aid to 
intellectual piety that he gave his warmest praise. 
Yet this man of many books was clear in his per- 
ception that books are not the only tools with 
which the mind can do its proper work : — 

Corn and cattle are the farmer's words, houses are 
the language of the carpenter, locomotives are the iron- 
worker's speech, and the wares of the merchant are the 
utterance of his mental calculation. ... I once knew 
a grocer who knew the history of all the articles in his 
wealthy shop, whence they came, how they were pro- 
duced, and for what they were useful. He made his 
shop a library, and got as much science, ay, as much 
poetry, out of it as many a scholar from his library 
of books. He was a grocer ; but he was also a man 
in the grocery business, which is another thing. 

Nothing if not democratic, he delighted in trans- 
lating the realities of the intellectual and moral 
life into these homely terms and in speaking in one 
breath the names of the most famous of mankind 
and those but little known. His parables were 
often drawn from his own early life. His father 
was the " hard-working man, a farmer and me- 
chanic, who in the winter nights rose a great while 


before day and out of the darkness coaxed him at 
least two hours of hard study." His own love of 
knowledge was so passionate and found such ex- 
uberant expression in his sermons that many of his 
people, especially the younger men, must have de- 
rived from him an impulse towards reading and 
study of incomparable significance. 

It will be seen that morality did not stand over 
against piety in Parker's thought, as in the usual 
discriminations. Piety was the inclusive term ; 
morality was one form of it, a higher form than 
the love of truth, a lower form than the love of 
persons and the all-including love of God. This 
did not mean that in the collisions of justice and 
affection, the former must give way. It does so 
with women, he said ; women showing, as he 
thought, better than men the instinctive tenden- 
cies of human nature. He approved the act of 
Brutus, subordinating his paternal affection to the 
welfare of the state and decreeing the death of 
his son. So it appears that intuition is not final 
in all cases. His sturdy common sense made the 
necessary qualifications of his general conception. 
Emerson said that the moon never shines so sweetly 
as upon our necessary journey, and Parker's inci- 
dental thought often shines with a more genial and 
persuasive light than his rigid generalizations. Ab- 
solute right, absolute justice, — these were phrases 
very dear to him, but he recognized the relative 
in morals ; saw that war, slavery, polygamy were 
good things in their day, and that revolution, " the 


lynch law of nations," is a medicine which they 
sometimes need : " The Desire of all nations comes 
not always on an ass's colt." 

Parker loved to preach on the affections — the 
piety of the heart — and was never more persua- 
sive than when doing so. Meditation was not in 
his line, but he meditated a good deal upon domes- 
tic life and on the conditions of true marriage. 
His meditation bore much sermon-fruit, but his 
journal shows an intense preoccupation with the 
matter and admits us to his deeper mind. His 
" Sermon of Old Age " is one of the most signal 
examples of his preaching in this kind, but a great 
sea rolls in behind this special wave. The central 
thought is always that a true marriage is not an 
event, but a process : — 

A happy wedlock is a long falling in love. . . . 
Such a large and sweet fruit is a complete marriage that 
it needs a very long summer to ripen in and then a long 
winter to mellow and season it. But a real happy mar- 
riage of love and judgment, between a noble man and 
woman, is one of the things so very handsome, that if the 
sun were, as the Greeks fabled, a god, he might stop the 
world and hold it still now and then in order to look all 
day long on some example thereof and feast his eyes on 
such a spectacle. 

But however eloquent his preaching on the affec- 
tions, and however eager his insistence on their 
superiority to intellect and conscience, it was as a 
preacher of righteousness that he had the strength 
of ten. His inevitable tendency did not tally with 


liis deliberate conclusions. In his personal con- 
cerns, affection was no doubt the ruling power; 
but it was under the flag of conscience that he 
fought the battles of his public life. No aspect 
of men's conduct escaped his observation and his 
appropriate praise or blame. The " Sermon of 
Merchants " shows how largely and exhaustively 
he could treat the commercial side of life. There 
were others more sociological than this, such as the 
" Sermon of Poverty," the two on the Perishing 
and Dangerous Classes, that on " The Moral Con- 
dition of Boston," which had for a pendant one on 
the spiritual condition of the city. These subjects 
were treated with tremendous force and feeling. 
They were preeminently statistical, but it was said 
of Gladstone that he could make figures sing, and 
Parker had a portion of his gift. And there were 
figures of speech as well as the ten Arabic signs, 
and the discussion, wherever it began, was always 
carried up into the higher courts of morals and 
religion ; like Bishop Berkeley's treatise on Tar- 
Water which became, in its final stage, an argu- 
ment for the Trinity. 1 

But there were sermons very different from 
these, such as dealt with the most common every- 
day affairs, and more simple and more searching 
they could not have been. 

In his preaching generally, as in the " Ten Ser- 
mons," the climax was reserved for the conscious 

1 I reserve for another chapter the great anti-slavery sermons in 
which liis ethical preaching attained its most exalted pitch. 


delight of the soul in that Infinity of Truth, 
Beauty, Justice, Love, from which he set out, at 
once the Alpha and the Omega of his religious 
thought and life. However cordial his concession 
of the reality of unconscious piety, he never failed 
to make it plain that, without a conscious relation 
of the soul to God, life is a poor aborted thing in 
comparison with its normal possibilities. In the 
" Ten Sermons " there are three upon this head : 
" Of Conscious Religion and the Soul," " Of Con- 
scious Religion as a Source of Strength," " Of 
Conscious Religion as a Source of Joy ; " and this 
special emphasis does not exceed that of his habit- 
ual affirmation. The several pieties of truth, of 
conscience, of affection are not enough. For a 
complete piety we must unite them all with the 
consciousness of God, and so have the conscious 
piety of mind and conscience, heart and soul ; the 
love of God with all the faculties, as infinite truth, 
infinite justice, infinite love, infinite Father and 
Mother of all worlds and souls. This utmost 
piety, piety of the soul, which has its end in God, 
will react on all the several pieties, heretofore un- 
conscious, and, making them conscious, make them 
more full and joyous ; make them react on the 
soul's conscious piety which, in its turn reacting 
upon them, will make them ever more divinely 
sweet and fair. Language was poor to tell the 
wonder of this interaction of the soul's conscious 
piety and the several pieties of man's natural 
parts. ( No limit could be set to what a man could 


bear, or do, or be whose piety was conscious in 
each several part, the highest giving light and 
strength to all the rest. 

He loved to celebrate the dignity of human na- 
ture with Dr. Channing and the dignity of human 
character with Dr. Dewey, 1 and all his thought of 
human greatness burst, flower-like, at the top into 
his strong assurance of a future life. With many 
incidental references to this great subject, there 
are two special sermons written in 1846 and 1853 
in which his thoughts on it find their most deliber- 
ate expression. The latter, which is one of the 
" Sermons of Theism," etc., is the better known, 
but I am disposed to think the other the more excel- 
lent. They both assert with equal confidence man's 
consciousness of immortality, but the preacher did 
not preach this consciousness as something uncon- 
ditioned by the facts of organization and environ- 
ment, and he did not disdain the confirmation of 
such inductive or deductive reasoning as might 
offer him its aid. The deductive argument was 
from the wisdom and goodness of God. The in- 
ductive arguments were drawn from the general 
belief of mankind, — a vicious circle it would seem, 
— and from the universal desire, less obvious now, 
perhaps, than it was in 1846, what with our closer 
studies and our fresh experience. As to the man- 
ner of the other life, it must be conscious, active, 
social, retributive. "Shall we know our friends 

1 Whose conservative political temper blinded Parker to his 
many great and noble qualities. 


again ? " He could not doubt it. " Man loves to 
think it ; yet to trust is wiser than to prophesy. 
The girl who went from us a little one may be as 
parent to her father when he comes," and many of 
our friends " surpass the radiant manliness which 
Jesus won and wore " when he was living among 

Parker is nowhere so inconsistent with himself, 
nowhere so false to his own central thought of mo- 
rality as something absolute, as where he writes : 

If to-morrow I perish utterly, then I shall only take 
counsel for to-day and ask for qualities that last no 
longer. My fathers will be to me only as the ground out 
of which my bread-corn is grown ; dead, they are like 
the rotten mould of the earth, their memory of small con- 
cern to me. Posterity, — I shall care nothing for the 
future generations of mankind. . . . Morality will vanish. 

Here is a morality as little absolute as that of 
those who make religion and morality depend upon 
miraculous events. " Wise men are not always 
wise," said Emerson, and Parker's wisdom was 
here at the lowest ebb. It is impossible to doubt 
that his ideas of a future life inspired him with 
great moral enthusiasm ; and yet, without them, 
he would not, I think, have found his moral occu- 
pation gone. Slavery and the Popular Theology 
of Christendom would still have been considered 
foemen worthy of his steel. He would still have 
found himself one of the 

fellow heirs to that small island, Life, 
Where we must plough and sow and reap with brothers. 


His arguments for immortality may not have 
convinced his hearers ; they may not have found a 
consciousness like his in their own breasts ; but 
how could they resist the impact of a personal con- 
fidence so fervid and so strong? As it was here 
so was it everywhere. It was not his philosophy 
or theology, it was his religion, the product of his 
organization, his temperament, and his experience, 
that convinced men as could no argument, and 
made them evangelists of the faith they had re- 
ceived. His sincerity and his humanity were not 
to be escaped. It was evident that he believed in 
his own gospel with all his mind and heart and 
soul. It was evident that he had a passionate de- 
sire to do men good. Men listened to his most 
terrible invectives feeling that there were burdens 
laid upon the preacher which he might not refuse 
to bear. Because of these things he was a great 
religious leader in his day. We must look wide 
and long to find another so abounding in the love 
of God and Man as he, so bent as he was upon 
sharing his own joy in this with others, and with 
such a genius for communicating that which was 
to him of all good things the best. 



Theodore Parker was interested in all the 
great reformatory movements of his time. Peace, 
temperance, education, the condition of women, 
penal legislation, prison discipline, the moral and 
mental destitution of the rich, the physical desti- 
tution of the poor — all these things engaged his 
sympathy and warmed his blood, dictating many 
a page in his sermons, often a whole sermon, but 
they did not any of them break in upon the set- 
tled order of his life and change its course and 
become a dominant factor in his experience. It 
was different with the anti-slavery reform. Prob- 
ably his interest in this would have grown more 
rapidly if he had not for a time been so much 
engrossed in his theological and religious contro- 
versy with the Boston ministers. 1 It was in the 
same year with the South Boston sermon that he 
preached his first anti-slavery sermon, January 
31, 1841. It was repeated June 4, 1843. Other 
sermons before this one had contained allusions to 

1 In the presidential campaign of 1840 he took not the slight- 
est interest, finding nothing to choose between Harrison and Van 


slavery. This one is but the faintest shadow o£ 
those he preached in the full tide of his career. 
It reserves for its climax some considerations re- 
ferring to that slavery which is constituted by the 
appetites and passions of the individual. It has a 
good word for the Abolitionists, though they are 
" sometimes extravagant," and a good word for the 
moderate men who serve as a balance wheel to the 
anti-slavery machine, and are like a chilly day in 
April when the vegetation is coming" on too fast. 

The annexation of Texas (March 3, 1845) and 
the ensuing war with Mexico revealed the depths 
of passionate humanity which lay concealed under 
the placid surface of his first theoretic exposition. 
Nevertheless the emphasis in his Mexican War 
preaching was upon the evil of war, not upon the 
evil of slavery, albeit slavery was the root of which 
the Mexican War was blade and fruit, as Parker 
clearly saw and said. June 7, 1846, he preached 
at the Melodeon " A Sermon of War," one of the 
first, if not the first, of those sermons in which the 
massing of statistics was a striking part. Charles 
Sumner's " True Grandeur of Nations " had been 
delivered about a year before, but evidently its 
echoes had not ceased to ring in Parker's mind, 
and its methods furnished him with a great exam- 
ple. He saw the provisional place of war in civ- 
ilization as clearly as the evolutionist. He con- 
ceived that war might be a necessary instrument 
of justice in the modern world; but he saw as 
clearly as General Sherman that " war is hell," 


and lie set forth its evils with the vivid strokes of 
such painter critics of war as Wiertz and Ver- 
eschagin. He denounced the Mexican War as 
" wholly wrong ; " "as bad as the partition of Po- 
land." He asked : — 

What shall we do in regard to this present war ? We 
can refuse to take any part in it ; we can encourage oth- 
ers to do the same; we can aid men, if need be, who 
suffer because they refuse. Men will call us traitors : 
What then ? That hurt nobody in '76 ! We are a 
rebellious nation ; our whole history is treason ; our 
blood was attainted before we were born ; our creeds 
are infidelity to the mother church ; our constitution 
treason to our fatherland. What of that ? Though all 
the governors in the world bid us commit treason against 
man, and set the example, let us never submit. 

February 4, 1847, he made a speech in Faneuil 
Hall, in which matters were not minced. He de- 
nounced the war as an intolerably wicked one, 
" waged for a mean and infamous purpose, the 
extension of slavery." He described the United 
States as " a great boy fighting a little one, and 
that little one feeble and sick. What makes it 
worse is, the little boy is in the right, and the 
big boy is in the wrong and tells solemn lies to 
make his side seem right." " The war had a mean 
and infamous beginning." Men should have said, 
" This is a war for slavery, a mean and infamous 
war ; an aristocratic war, a war against the best 
interests of mankind. If God please, we will die 
a thousand times, but never draw blade in this 


wicked war." Thereupon (lie was speaking in the 
gallery) there were cries of " Throw him over ! " 
" What would you do next ? " he asked. " Drag 
you out of the hall." " What good would that do? 
It would not wipe off the infamy of this war ; 
would not make it any less wicked." In our recent 
history few of the speeches made have been so 
" treasonable " as this. 

June 25, 1848, Parker preached another sermon 
on the Mexican War. The treaty of peace had 
been ratified on the 25th of the preceding month. 
He stood up and counted the cost in money and 
in men. The war had not, he thought, been a 
cruel one, except for the hanging of forty-eight 
deserters — there were 4966 deserters all told — by 
General Harney, whose monument is conspicuous 
in the great soldiers' cemetery at Arlington, D. C. 
And yet, 

If you take all the theft, all the assaults, all the cases 
of arson, ever committed in time of peace in the United 
States since the settlement of Jamestown in 1608, and 
add to them all the cases of violence offered to woman, 
with all the murders, they will not amount to half the 
wrongs committed in the war for the plunder of Mexico. 

He considered the effects of the war on the 
national temper, the political parties, and the 
character of the soldiers. He had no illusions 
here. Our most scientific penologists do not better 
understand what war does for the soldier. 

Hereafter they will be of little service in any good 
work. Many of them were the offscourings of the peo- 


pie at first. Now these men have tasted the idleness, 
the intemperance, the debauchery of a camp. . . . They 
will come home before long. . . . What will be their 
influence as fathers, husbands ? 

Parker's first great anti-slavery utterance was 
not a spoken word. It was a printed " Letter to 
the People of the United States touching the Mat- 
ter of Slavery." It is possible that the form was 
suggested by Channing's open letters to Jonathan 
Phillips, Henry Clay, and others, on the same sub- 
ject. The letter, dated December 22, 1847, an- 
other instance of his affinity for days and feasts, 
came out early in 1848. Lowell writes to his friend 
Charles F. Briggs (" Harry Franco "), March 26, 
1848, " You say it is a merit of Theodore Par- 
ker's letter that there is no Garrisonism in it. 
Why, it is full of Garrisonism from one end to the 
other. But for Garrison's seventeen years' toil the 
book had never been written." But there was a 
measure of truth in Briggs's remark. Garrison's 
argument had been almost exclusively humanitarian. 
Parker's was politico-economical. It was more 
than this, but its main strength was on this line, 
and he never made a better general statement of 
the case of Freedom against Slavery, though he 
went on collecting facts until the inexorable end. 
Ten pages were given to the history of slavery, 
eight to the condition and treatment of slaves, ten 
to the effects on industry, two to effects on popula- 
tion, ten to effects on education, fifteen to effects 
on law and politics, five to " Slavery considered as 


a Wrong." Here was the foundation from which 
afterward he built up his great anti-slavery denun- 
ciation and appeal. The letter was as dignified 
and dispassionate as it could have been had Chan- 
ning written it. If " touched with emotion," it 
was not deeply interpenetrated therewith. 

The Compromise of 1850 remedied this defect. 
The several renditions it inspired set Parker's 
heart on fire. They appealed to his humanity, to 
that part of him which subordinated all the rest. 
He was no sentimentalist and had no illusions as 
to the negro character. Edward Everett had a 
more favorable opinion of it. Emerson's was more 
genial and more just. Parker's estimate of the 
negro, intellectually and morally, was low. He 
exaggerated the sensuality of the negro as he did 
that of the Jew, whom he placed only a little higher 
in this respect. 1 Moreover the negro had for him 
a certain physical repulsion. But his humanity 
easily absorbed the instinctive repulsion and the 
theoretic doubts. He could see no human creature 
wronged and not feel the pain in his own side. 
The limitations of the negro, as he conceived them, 
were not reasons for degrading him. They were 
appeals to his benevolence and were responded to 
as such. 

The interval between the " Letter " of 1848 and 
the Compromises of 1850 was not without signi- 
ficant contributions from Parker to the anti-slavery 
cause. Some of these have been already men- 

1 Letter to David A. Wasson, December 12, 1857. 


tioned in connection with the " Massachusetts Quar- 
terly Review : " " The Political Destination of 
America ; " " Some Thoughts on the Free Soil 
Party and the Election of General Taylor ; " the 
review of Polk's administration ; and, very nota- 
bly, the great funeral discourses on John Quincy 
Adams and President Taylor, the former as much 
more important than the latter as the theme re- 
quired. The Adams discourse has been too much 
regarded as merely prefiguring the much greater 
discourse on Webster, and as paling in the light 
of that. It was a daring innovation on the tradi- 
tional pulpit eulogy of the great public man, which 
was a monochromatic wash of indiscriminate praise. 
He put his finger on one spot and another, saying 
" Thou ailest here, and here," but, in the final 
summing up, he wrote, and availed himself of 
special type to emphasize the words : The one 


had NO cause to FEAR. That the discourse was 
years in the making, the journal plainly shows. 
In one passage we have Parker anticipating the 
Civil Service Reform, headed in the sixties by the 
Unitarians Sumner and Jenckes and Curtis, and 
in the seventies jointly with these by their co-reli- 
gionists Dr. Bellows and his parishioner Dorman 
B. Eaton. Parker praised Adams for looking only 
to the ability and integrity of the official, adding, 
" I wish it was no praise to say these things ; but 
it is praise I dare not apply to any other man 
since Washington." This too he praised: that, 


when the Unitarians in Washington, " a feeble 
folk," met in a small, obscure room over a public 
bathing-house, Adams went and worshiped with 
them there. It would be interesting to know if 
Webster and Calhoun, who were of the same reli- 
gious opinion, confessed to it as openly when it 
was not fashionable and hardly respectable. 

Parker dealt with Taylor as sincerely as with 
Adams. He could not forget that he was a slave- 
holder by deliberate choice, on the eve of his presi- 
dency buying one hundred and fourteen human be- 
ings to have and to hold as property. With equal 
deliberation he led our armies in a wicked war 
gendered by Slavery and Falsehood most illicitly. 

An honest man, he looked for honest foes and honest 
friends ; but his hardest battles were fought after he 
ceased to be a soldier. ... I sincerely believe that he 
was more of a man than his political supporters thought 
him ; that he had more natural sagacity, more common 
sense, more firmness of purpose, and very much more 
honesty than they expected or desired ; . . . that he 
took Washington for his general model. 

Parallel with these faithful characterizations, 
there were frequent contributions of a more direct 
nature to the anti-slavery conflict. December 28, 
1847, only six days after finishing his " Letter," 
he made a speech in Faneuil Hall in which he 
translated much of the "Letter," especially the 
economical part, into terms suited to the homeliest 
apprehension. August 4, 1849, he preached in 


Worcester on a Fast Day appointed on account of 
the cholera, and devoted his sermon to showing that 
African Slavery was a national disease compared 
with which Asiatic cholera was little to be feared. 
The Compromises of 1850 were a permission 
to many anti-slavery people who had broken away 
from the great parties to return to their allegiance. 
Nearly 150,000 did so, judging by the vote for 
Hale and Julian as compared with that for Van 
Buren and Adams. But what was a sedative to 
so many was an exhilarant to Theodore Parker. 
What put so many consciences to sleep roused his 
as with a peal of thunder in the silent night. The 
whole order of his life took on a different form 
and color from the passage of the Fugitive Slave 
Law onward for the next eight years, and espe- 
cially from the moment when that law attained in 
Boston to its first practical applications. No one 
was more sensitive than Parker to great abstract 
ideas and ideals, but so many sided was his nature 
that the most concrete examples had for him a 
more compelling force. The great scheme of study 
to which he had given so much thought and pre- 
paration had to be set aside. There was no time 
for that together with his various duties pertaining 
to his position as chairman of the Executive Com- 
mittee of the Vigilance Committee. The journal 
tells the story, as thinner and thinner flows the 
stream of notes upon the Development of Keligion. 
Less money went every year for books and more for 
fugitive slaves or one form and another of the anti- 


slavery agitation. More and more frequently the 
Sunday sermon or the lyceum lecture found its 
inspiration in the general bearings of the conflict 
or in some immediate event of particular atrocity. 

The overwork was terrible and cut short the 
measure of his years. Samuel May, of Leicester, 
an anti-slavery workman of high rank, born four 
months before Parker, is living still, 1 and it is pos- 
sible that Parker may have been but for his anti- 
slavery work. This was as fatal to him as the 
ball which struck him down to Colonel Robert G. 
Shaw, one of Parker's Sunday-school scholars at 
West Roxbury, and Parker was not less a martyr 
in the good cause than that young hero. His con- 
stitutional inheritance did not promise length of 
days, but that he stood such a tremendous strain 
so long suggests that if he had not attempted the 
superhuman he might at least have filled out the 
promised threescore years and ten. 

The fugitive slave cases furnished situations 
which lost nothing for Parker by being pictur- 
esque and striking and dramatic. He could be 
something of an actor himself upon occasion, with 
no loss of sincerity ; merely adopting a particular 
manner to produce a particular effect. There was 
even something melodramatic in the manner of 
his recurrence to such an incident as his marriage 
of the Crafts, and in the incident itself. So, too, in 
his recurrence to his grandfather's revolutionary 
arms, and to his arming of himself when Ellen 

1 June 15, 1899. P. S. — He died November 24, 1899. 


Craft was sheltered in his house and the kidnap- 
pers were in hot pursuit. But the man's funda- 
mental reality was not impeached by these features 
of his character ; as, doubtless, the kidnappers 
would have discovered if they had bearded him in 
his study with the intent to rob him of a parish- 

His first fugitive slave case was that of Latimer 
in 1842, who escaped while his examination was 
pending. Either Parker's was not early morning 
courage or it was tempered with prudence, for we 
find him (December 5th) writing a long letter ex- 
plaining why he had not read from the pulpit a 
certain petition in behalf of Latimer and others in 
his case. When in 1846 a vessel owned in Boston, 
the Ottoman, with a New England crew, arrived 
there with a slave secreted in the hold, half dead 
with suffocation and with fear, the captain or agent 
had him sent back to NeW Orleans. There was a 
great indignation meeting in Faneuil Hall, in the 
getting up of which Parker was prominent. John 
Quincy Adams presided, making his last speech in 
that place of honor, Parker making his first. In 
the same year (May 17th) was Torrey's funeral 
service at Tremont Temple, Park Street Church 
having been refused, after having been conceded, 
to the man who had run off two hundred slaves 
and languished in a Maryland jail until his death. 
Parker, though sick, was there in the rainy weather, 
lamenting that so few were present, and wishing he 
might speak a word to match the " real old Puri- 


tan prayer; calm, deep, forgiving, full of charity 
and nobleness." 

In October following the passage of the Fugi- 
tive Slave Law and other Compromise measures of 
August, 1850, there was an indignation meeting in 
Faneuil Hall at which the great speeches were those 
of Phillips and Parker, Lowell's father offering a 
simple prayer to the " Father of all men." Parker 
told of a fugitive in Canada who that day (Octo- 
ber 14th) had telegraphed his wife in Boston ask- 
ing, Could he come back ? " Will you let him 
come ? " asked Parker. " How many of you will 
defend him to the worst ? " A vote was taken and 
up went " a forest of hands." He invoked the 
pity of the people for the sole representative 1 from 
Massachusetts who had voted for the intolerable 
law. There had been several rehearsals for this 
speech. One was at another meeting in Faneuil 
Hall, March 25, 1850, which he was active in pro- 
curing. He tried to rally the Whigs and the Free 
Soilers to denounce Webster's Seventh of March 
speech ; failed utterly, and fell back on the Aboli- 
tionists. Too daringly he boasted : " There were 
three fugitives at my house the other night. Ellen 
Craft was one of them." He told the assemblage 
that she was there before him ; " not so dark as 
Mr. Webster himself." He imagined a situation 

1 Hon. Samuel A. Eliot of Boston. It is significant that he 
subscribed generously to the fund for purchasing- Anthony Burns 
from his master and setting him free. Such was the inmost heart 
of many Union-saving citizens. 


in which her rendition should be attempted, and 
asked, " Does Mr. Webster suppose that such a law- 
could be executed in Boston?" Mr. Webster did, 
and therein was wiser than Parker. But Parker 
was the wiser when he said : — 

Perpetuate slavery ! We cannot do it. Nothing will 
save it. It is girt about by a ring of fire which daily 
grows narrower. ... It cannot be saved in this age of 
the world until you nullify every ordinance of nature, 
until you repeal the will of God and dissolve the union 
He has made between righteousness and the welfare of 
a people. 

Another important speech was before the New 
England Anti-Slavery Society on the 29th of May. 
Parker never accepted the principles of Garri- 
son in their ultimate entirety. Disunion was not 
his way out if any better could be found. Non- 
voting was impossible for him, though he agreed 
with Garrison that the Constitution was a pro- 
slavery document — "a covenant with death and 
an agreement with hell." So far as he accepted 
the Republican formula, " Freedom national, Sla- 
very sectional," it was, I think, merely as a pro- 
visional scheme, not as a statement of the consti- 
tutional fact. But whatever his differences with 
Garrison he anticipated Lincoln's judgment of him 
as the chief source of anti-slavery power, 1 and he 
was nowhere more at home than on the platforms of 
the Garrison societies, and nowhere more welcome. 

1 New York Tribune, November 4, 1883 : Hon. D. H. Cham- 


He was not less free to blame them than to praise. 
That the Free Soil and later the Republican for- 
mula was merely provisional with him is proven by 
his words at the meeting of May 29, 1850 : — 

By and by there will be a political party with a wider 
basis than the Free Soil party, who will declare that the 
nation itself must put an end to slavery in the nation ; 
and if the Constitution of the United States will not 
allow it, there is another constitution that will. Then 
the title " Defender and Expounder of the Constitution 
of the United States " will give way to this, " Defender 
and Expounder of the Constitution of the Universe " 
and we shall reaffirm the ordinance of nature and re- 
enact the will of God. 

It was less than a fortnight after the October 
meeting in Faneuil Hall that Parker, coming back 
from a lecture in Plymouth (October 25th), found 
one Hughes, the jailer of Macon, Ga., and one 
Knight, whom Hughes had brought as a witness, 
on the track of William and Ellen Craft. These 
were Parker's parishioners and he was very proud 
of them. Minister at large to all the fugitives in 
the city, William and Ellen Craft were his pecul- 
iar joy. William had been a joiner in Macon, 
hiring himself from his owner for $200 a year. 
As I remember him in my own pulpit in the later 
sixties he was a fine piece of manhood, putting to 
shame, I thought, a good many of the white folk 
who were much scandalized when I took him the 
next day to dine with me at the Astor House, with 
serene unconsciousness from which I finally awoke. 


Hughes and Knight were arrested for defamation 
of character, they having charged Craft with be- 
ing a thief. Hughes was much enraged. " It 's 
not the niggers I care about," he said ; " it 's the 
principle of the thing." They easily found bail for 
$10,000, such good friends had slavery in Boston, 
and got off with some difficulty from the Court 
House, the crowd chasing their carriage and break- 
ing its windows. 

A meeting of the Vigilance Committee was at 
once called. This committee was of earlier date 
than the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. It dated 
from the Ottoman incident of 1846, if not from 
the Latimer incident of 1842. In the course of 
1850 its membership increased rapidly, until it 
was 250. Parker's name was first on the execu- 
tive committee and his position was no sinecure. 
He drafted the resolutions advising the colored 
fugitives of Boston to remain in the city and assur- 
ing them that they should not be sent back into 
slavery. If the promise was not kept, it was no 
fault of his. He gave abundant time and thought 
to the work of the committee. The Melodeon be- 
ing closed for repairs, he went to hear Freeman 
Clarke preach and was called out to attend to a 
new arrival of kidnappers. Four days in Febru- 
ary, '52, tell the story of many others : — 

Feb. 22. Washington's birthday. Very busy with 
fugitive slave matters. 

Feb. 24. Not well. Writing report on fugitive slave 
petitions, etc. 


Feb. 25. At home — about anti - slavery business. 
P. M. at the State House with Anti-Slavery Committee. 
Phillips, Sewall, and Ellis spoke. Vigilance Committee 
sat at night. 

Feb. 26. Much time in fugitive slave matters. 

Many of the entries are written without names, to 
prevent discovery, and there was much stricter 
reticence. The story of Parker's anti-slavery activ- 
ity does not appear fully in his journal. There is 
much more of it in his published and unpublished 
sermons. Hundreds of letters take up the won- 
drous tale. The most picturesque memorial is a 
scrap-book now in the Boston Public Library — 
"Memoranda of the Troubles occasioned by the 
infamous Fugitive Slave Law from March 15, 
1851, to February 19, 1856." The title and the 
compilation are Parker's own. Half of the book 
is taken up with posters warning the fugitives of 
danger and summoning their friends to the rescue, 
and many of these bear, unmistakably, the mark 
of Parker's hand. He would have been worth his 
weight in silver, if not in gold, to a modern yellow 
journalist bent upon head-lines of the most star- 
tling character. 

To return to Parker's sheep and the besetting 
wolves : one of these posters was issued describing 
Hughes and Knight in terms more exact than com- 
plimentary. Members of the committee shadowed 
them wherever they went. Meantime Parker drove 
to Brookline, where Ellen was concealed at Ellis 
Gray Loring's, to cheer her up ; then to see William 


and inspect his arms — a good revolver and two 
other pistols, a bowie-knife and another knife. 1 
The next day the committee met, about sixty of 
them, at the United States Hotel, there calling 
upon Hughes and Knight. Parker was spokesman, 
and succeeded in frightening the kidnappers so 
thoroughly that they took the afternoon train for 
New York, and not an hour too soon for their own 
safety and the city's peace. 

The next thing in order was to get William and 
Ellen Craft out of the country. They were faith- 
ful husband and wife, but without formal marriage, 
which they now sought at Parker's hands. He 
married them, November 7th, at a colored boarding- 
house. It was an impressive wedding. Parker's 
marriage service was never twice alike. It always 
took on something from the immediate circum- 
stance. He told William Craft that if worse came 
to worst he must defend the liberty of his wife 
against all comers. A Bible and a bowie-knife 
lay on two tables in the room. With that spon- 
taneous aptness which served him so often, Parker 
took them and put them in the husband's hands, 
one for the body's, the other for the soul's, defense. 
Melodramatic, if you please, but with a kernel of 
invincible reality. The Crafts started for England, 
taking with them a letter from Parker to James 
Martineau commending them to his parochial care. 

The next fugitive slave case, that of Shadrach, 

1 There is some confusion in the different accounts of William's 
personal armory, but evidently it was remarkable, if not unique. 


had a truly comical procedure. He was arrested 
on Saturday, February 15, 1851, and prayers were 
asked for him the next day in all the churches. 
But the old colored woman's account of the Al- 
mighty, as " faithful but tedious," was not justified 
by the event. The prayers got no chance. They 
were anticipated by Shadrach's deliverance. Par- 
ker's interposition was as little needed. The case 
had been adjourned when he arrived at the court- 
room, and the fugitive had been hustled out of 
the room by the impetuous rush of a jubilant and 
joking crowd, headed by a colored man who had 
not set out to do anything in particular. Shadrach 
was soon upon his way to Canada. Parker wrote 
in his journal that the rescue was the most noble 
deed done in Boston since the Boston tea-party of 
1773. But it was too accidental to deserve such 
lofty praise. 

The Craft business had seemed to reassure the 
colored fugitives of Boston, but the Shadrach 
arrest, notwithstanding its fortunate outcome, filled 
them with dismay and scattered them like chaff 
before the wind. And so it happened that when 
Thomas Sims was assaulted April 3d, and, making 
some manly defense, was arrested for disturbing 
the peace, there was no body of colored people for 
Colonel Higginson and Lewis Hayden, the chief 
colored man in Boston, to reckon on for an effec- 
tive measure of relief. Whigs and Democrats 
were out of the question ; Free Soilers little better ; 
while of the Abolitionists not a few were non-re- 


sistants. In his " Cheerful Yesterdays " Colonel 
Higginson has told with admirable wit and humor 
the stories of the Sims and Burns renditions, and 
the vain endeavors that were made to nullify those 
shameful acts. No one saw more of those acts 
than Colonel Higginson, or was more a part of 
those endeavors. At this remove he sees the 
humorous elements involved in doings which in 
their main effect were sufficiently tragical. At 
least one scheme for rescuing Sims promised well, 
but it was anticipated by the enemy. The last 
and most daring one was planned in Parker's study. 
It contemplated nothing less than the seizure of 
the vessel in which Sims was to be taken to Sa- 
vannah on her way to that port. There were men 
fit for the business, but the scheme was quenched 
by the uncertainty attaching to the method of 
Sims's transportation. But for this hitch, an in- 
dictment for collusive piracy might have antici- 
pated Parker's indictment for " misdemeanor " by 
three years. 

Denied the writ of habeas corpus, without a 
trial, Sims was delivered over to the claimant by 
the United States Commissioner, George Ticknor 
Curtis, after such brief examination as might have 
answered for an habitual drunkard charged with 
a new offense. Preferring death to slavery, the 
victim pleaded for a knife with which to free his 
soul from the poor body's thrall, but this favor was 
of course impossible. On the 19th of April he was 
duly delivered to his master by a Boston delega- 


tion, and whipped after a fashion that went far to 
make the owner's repossession void and of no effect. 

On April 10th, while Sims was still a prisoner 
in the Boston Court House, Parker preached a 
tremendous sermon on " The Chief Sins of the 
Nation." Could he have anticipated the coinci- 
dence of Sims's treatment in Savannah with the 
anniversary of Lexington and Concord his paral- 
lels could hardly have been more deadly than they 
were. But the coincidence was not lost on him. 
On April 12, 1852, he preached a sermon on the 
first anniversary of the Sims rendition, " The Bos- 
ton Kidnapping," which economized the coincidence 
for its full worth. The anniversary discourse was 
awful in its denunciation of the crime of April 12th, 
but it had not the spontaneous energy of the ser- 
mon preached immediately on that consummation. 
This was the sermon in which he summoned Nero 
and Torquemada and Jeffreys to make up a pious 
contrast with the iniquity of Commissioner Curtis. 
He begged their pardon for asking them to come 
and meet so base a man. He would have Iscariot 
made a saint, and a day set apart for him in the 
calendar, and that day should be the 7th of March, 
the day of Webster's betrayal of Freedom for the 
good-will of the South. 

Sumner wrote him : — 

May you live a thousand years, always preaching the 
truth of Fast Day ! That sermon is a noble effort. It 
stirred me to the bottom of my heart. . . . You have 
placed the Commissioner in an immortal pillory. . . . 


That was what Parker meant to do, then, for 
Commissioner Curtis, and later for Commissioner 
Loring and the whole Curtis family. That was 
the purpose of his terrible invective, which some 
excellent people have deplored. And his success 
was equal to his hope. Besides, he wished to make 
the complicity with slavery as hateful as he could, 
and here again he was wise in his generation. 
Strangely enough, the same month that saw the 
return of Sims saw the election of Sumner to the 
United States Senate. Parker wrote him a noble 
letter, — one of hundreds with which he sought to 
hold our public men to the realization of their 
most exigent ideals, — in which he said : — 

You see, my dear Sumner, that I expect much of you, 
and that I expect heroism of the most heroic kind. . . . 
Yours is a place of great honor, of great trust, but of 
prodigious peril, and of that there will be few to warn 
you as I do now ; few to encourage you as I gladly 

In this manner of address there is Parker's con- 
sciousness of his own moral weight, but it did not 
exceed the fact, nor was it misinterpreted by those 
to whom he wrote. He did not often waste his 
noble confidence upon ignoble men. 

At this point we are reminded that Parker's 
disengagement from the Unitarian body was not 
so complete as it is commonly imagined to have 
been. The Boston Association, which had frozen 
him out from its most Christian fellowship, was 
not by any means exhaustive of the Unitarian 


body. He was a life member of the American 
Unitarian Association, and went sometimes to its 
meetings. He attended annually the meetings of 
the Berry Street Conference, an exclusively minis- 
terial body, to whose essays and debates reporters 
were not admitted. We are indebted to Parker 
himself for a report of the meeting of May, 1851. 
The subject, " The Duty of Ministers under the 
Fugitive Slave Law," was introduced by Rev. S. J. 
May at a business meeting of the Unitarian As- 
sociation and refused a hearing. At the Berry 
Street Conference, May 29th, Dr. Osgood, of New 
York, spoke in defense of Dr. Dewey, who had 
been reported as saying that he would send back 
his mother into slavery rather than have the Union 
dissolved. " He had said his son or his brother." 
Parker insisted that the principle was the same 
whichever word was used. 1 When at length he got 
the floor, ringing familiar changes upon the kid- 
napping of his parishioners by Dr. Gannett's, and 
on his difficulties in writing sermons with one eye 

1 Dr. Dewey's remark was one of those which Parker never 
tired of worrying 1 . He insisted on its grossest form, and wrote in 
his journal that Dr. Dewey would have done what he said. This 
showed his ignorance of the man, whose unfortunate expression 
was simply an hyperbole spontaneously caught up to express 
Dr. Dewey's sense of the evils that would attend a disruption of 
the Union. He said to Dr. Furness, " Brother Furness, you have 
taken the easy road to duty. It is for me to take the hard and 
difficult way." We can understand that now. I do not wonder 
that Parker could not in 1851. It was my privilege to know Dr. 
Dewey well in his old age, and I do not believe that he would 
have given over a fugitive to the slave-catcher any sooner than 
Parker, whatever might happen to the Union of these States. 


on the loaded pistol on his desk or the sword-hilt 
protruding from its drawer, 1 he said, with much 
beside, contrasting the evils of disunion with those 
of slavery : — 

The fugitive slave law is one which contradicts the 
acknowledged precepts of the Christian religion, univer- 
sally acknowledged. It violates the noblest instincts of 
humanity ; it asks us to trample on the law of God. It 
commands what nature, religion, and God alike forbid ; 
it forbids what nature, religion, and God alike command. 
It tends to defeat the object of all just human law ; it 
tends to annihilate the observance of the law of God. 

Rather than have a single fugitive slave sent 
back he would see the Union dissolved, till there 
was not a fragment left so large as Suffolk 

In all the political speeches, sermons, and ad- 
dresses of these years we find, as in Parker's theo- 
logical discourses, many repetitions, much redun- 
dancy, a rhetoric extremely loose and negligent, 
with many a purple patch. Partly the result of 
crowded haste, these things were partly deliberate 
or instinctively well done. His sermons were not 
written to be read. They were built on the pro- 
verbial lines : "Does it read well? Then it was 
a poor speech : " a proverb not of universal appli- 
cation. We cannot fairly judge in cold blood 
what was spoken in hot, and with the man behind 
the words, driving them home with all the weight 
of his compact and massive personality. He had 

1 Ellen Craft being concealed in his house. 


the prophetic tone and spoke as one moved by 
the Holy Ghost. Moreover, for much of Parker's 
repetition we must look to his ever-shifting audi- 
ence, and his awareness of this condition, and his 
anxiety to deliver his whole gospel to those who 
might never come again. 

The year 1852 brought no fugitive slave case, 
but Daniel Webster died October 23d, and Parker 
felt that necessity was laid upon him to speak of 
him in intellectual and moral habit as he was. 
The sermon was preached in the Melodeon, Octo- 
ber 31st, three weeks before the change to Music 
Hall. The printed form, dated March 7, 1853, is 
longer than the spoken sermon, but that was from 
two to three hours long. The writing was begun 
on Wednesday, 11 A. M., and finished on Satur- 
day at 2 P. M. But the preparation for it had 
been going on for years. The day of its delivery 
is set down in his journal as " a sad and dreadful 
day." At the outset he told the overflowing con- 
gregation that he should be long, but promised 
them that they should not sit uneasily in their 
chairs. That depended on their view of Webster. 
If any of his friends were there they must have 
suffered much. There was unmeasured reprobation 
for their idol, blended with the loftiest admira- 
tion and the warmest love. Passages of exquisite 
tenderness alternated with terrible denunciations. 
There were sentences of memorable note : — 

Mr. Webster stamped his foot and broke through 
into the great hollow of practical atheism which under- 


gulfs the Church and State. Then what a caving in 
was there ! . . . Ecclesiastical quicksand ran down 
the hole amain. Metropolitan churches toppled and 
pitched and canted and cracked, their bowed walls all 
out of plumb. Colleges, broken from the chain which 
held them in the stream of time, rushed toward the 
abysmal rent. 

What a Miltonic sentence, not less so for par- 
ticular defects, was that in which he described the 
complicity of the North with Slavery ! - — 

Slavery, the most hideous snake which Southern 
regions breed, with fifteen unequal feet, came crawling 
North ; fold on fold, and ring on ring, and coil on coil 
the venomed monster came : then Avarice, the foulest 
worm which Northern cities gender in their heat, went 
crawling South ; with many a wriggling curl it wound 
along its way. At length they met, and twisting up in 
their obscene embrace, the twain became one monster. 
. . . There was no North, no South; they were one 

What a passage is that beginning "Do men 
mourn for him? " and that describing his last days, 
when " his great oxen were driven up that he 
might smell their healthy breath, and look his last 
into those broad, generous faces that were never 
false to him ! " 

It was an astonishing funeral oration. Boston 
wondered at it then, and wonders at it to this day. 
Many critics have come up against it, but they 
have done it little harm. Its essential truth has 
not been successfully impeached, be the question 
one of Webster's private character or public worth. 


No other life or essay or oration has given so true 
an estimate upon the whole. Nevertheless it may 
be cheerfully conceded that a sincere passion for 
the Union as a glorious ideal united with Web- 
ster's hankering for the presidency to forward a 
catastrophe which arrived when, " long leaning, 
he leaned over and fell down." Moreover, Parker, 
being theoretically a states-rights man, 1 could not 
appreciate the value of Webster's great speeches 
in the thirties against Hayue and Calhoun on the 
nature of the Union as an indissoluble bond. 
There came a time before Parker had been one 
year dead when those speeches were as a great sea- 
wall, against which the doctrine of secession broke 
in hopeless rage. 

May 24, 1854, Anthony Burns, another fugitive 
slave, was arrested in Boston on a false charge of 
burglary and confined in the same Court House in 
which Sims had received injustice, " old stiff-necked 
Lemuel [Shaw] visibly going under the chains " 
that were hung about it to keep out the people, and 
Parker climbing over them as best he could. The 
clatter of those chains sounded in many a linked 
argument of Parker's, long drawn out. The story 
of the Burns rendition, and of Parker's efforts to 
prevent it, and the consequences to him flowing from 
it, would easily fill a chapter or a book. On May 
25th, Burns, manacled and guarded, was brought 
before Commissioner Loring, and the " descent into 

1 " I have thought if any State wished to go, she had a natural 
right to do so." Berry Street Conference speech. 


hell " was being made proverbially easy for the 
prisoner when Parker, with others of the Vigilance 
Committee, forced his way into the court-room and 
after some little speech with Burns demanded that 
he have counsel. Richard H. Dana followed up 
Parker so adroitly that the commissioner was forced 
to yield. The hearing was fixed for May 27 th, but 
on the evening of the 26 th there was a meeting in 
Faneuil Hall, and not only a meeting but a scheme 
for setting the great audience 1 adrift to overwhelm 
the Court House guard and carry off the prisoner. 
Parker's speech was well adapted to the end in 
view, but the scheme miscarried. The immensity 
of the crowd prevented any communication between 
the conspirators upon the platform and those in 
the gallery or on the floor. Parker, waiting in 
vain for a signal from the latter, lost his hold upon 
the situation and declared the vote to be for meet- 
ing at the Court House the next morning at nine 
o'clock. Given his usual agility, he would have 
declared the vote according to his heart's desire 
and hurled an army on the Court House, where, in 
the event, there was but a corporal's guard of the 
right sort to do the necessary work. Failure was 
inevitable. Not even Mr. Alcott could prevent it, 
standing on the Court House steps, armed with his 
customary cane, and saying very quietly, "Why 
are we not within ? " 

To exaggerate Parker's disappointment and cha- 

1 " The largest I ever saw in that hall," writes Colonel Hig- 


grin would be impossible. Lewis Hayden firing a 
shot in Higginson's defense, it passed between Mar- 
shal Freeman's arm and bis body. When Parker 
heard of this he wrung his hands and cried, " Why 
did n't it hit him ! " All that legal ingenuity could 
devise was done to save the prisoner, but on June 2d 
he was marched out of Boston, over the spot where 
the first Boston Massacre in 1770 had taken place 
and Garrison had been dragged by " gentlemen 
of property and standing " in 1835. Parker had 
written another placard summoning the whole pop- 
ulation to " turn out and line the streets and look 
upon the shame and disgrace of Boston." It was 
so done. Moreover many of the houses, as advised 
by the Vigilance Committee, were hung with black, 
and the bells were generally tolled. 

One man had been killed at the Court House, how 
or by whom has never been found out. » Unfortu- 
nately he was on the wrong side and no martyr-stuff 
was in him. Not for this circumstance, but " for 
obstructing, resisting, and opposing the execution 
of the law," Judge B. R. Curtis — best known for 
having opposed, further on, the Dred Scott decision 
of Judge Taney — charged the grand jury to in- 
dict such as were found so doing, and indictments 
were ultimately found against Parker, Phillips, 
Higginson, and four others. The trial was fixed 
for April 3, 1855, and Parker spent much time 
preparing his defense in expectation of some seri- 
ous business. Good counsel were engaged : John 
P. Hale and Charles M. Ellis for Parker; John 


A. Andrew and others for the rest. The day ar- 
rived, Parker's counsel moved that the indictment 
be quashed, and after a brief argument the court 
pronounced that it be so, as badly framed. 

Such was Parker's gaudium certaminis that he 
would doubtless have preferred a trial. What he 
could do, he did. He elaborated and published the 
" Defence " he had prepared. " This little book," 
as Parker called it in a letter sent with it to Dr. 
George R. Noyes, is in reality a book of 221 royal, 
if I should not say imperial, octavo pages. Its 
125,000 words would make a book of 500 pages 
such as this. It is, by way of argument and illus- 
tration, a history of American pro-slavery aggression 
and of the corruption of English judges by the 
power by which they stand or fall. The fullness of 
its legal knowledge would have shamed the judges 
on the bench. Parker's genius for invective and 
for personal denunciation attained its acme in his 
handling of the Curtis family, — associated more 
infamously than any other with the subserviency of 
Boston to the slave-oligarchy of the South, — and 
Commissioner Loring. But the " Defence " lost 
more than half its pungency and popular effect in 
losing all its practical utility. Publicly delivered, 
as Parker would have delivered it, it would have 
been one of the most memorable appeals for justice 
ever delivered to a court. Parker might well ex- 
pect that it would bring upon him actions for libel, 
but those whom he had lashed with scorpions con- 
ceived that prudence was the better part of valor. 



" Parker's life was so large and robust," says 
Colonel Higginson, 1 " that it rather included the 
anti-slavery movement than accentuated it." What 
is certain is that his anti-slavery activity did not 
exhaust his energy, however it might limit its ex- 
pression upon special lines. What suffered most 
was the intended book upon the Development of 
Religion. There was no slackening of his interest 
in his preaching of a reformed theology. Such 
preaching, and the performance of parochial tasks 
abounding in all kindly offices of personal encour- 
agement and consolation, were the main haunt of 
his imagination and desire. Often in the journal 
or his letters do we come upon a note of lamenta- 
tion with respect to the inexorable demands made 
on him by his anti-slavery work. But the record 
without this was singularly full and rich. His 
lectures here and there, though numerous, were so 
arranged that he but seldom failed of being in his 
own pulpit at the appointed day and hour, though 
the amount of travel necessary to meet this end 
was great and wearisome. His lists of sermon- 

1 Private Letter : June 18, 1899. 


subjects, prospective and realized, during the great 
anti-slavery years, show a large proportion of theo- 
logical, ethical, and religious subjects, while of those 
concerned immediately with the unfolding public 
tragedy there was no serious lack. Such was the 
amplitude of his resources that these lists often 
anticipated a year's work or more ; one of them 
looked ahead four years. During his short vaca- 
tions he was generally impatient to get back again 
to his pulpit : — 

When Saturday night comes, I feel a little uneasiness, 
solemn emotions of awe and wonder and delight spring 
to consciousness. I don't feel quiet, but wish I were to 
preach to-morrow ; and on Sunday night I feel a little 
dissatisfied that I have not preached. 

It was a grief to him that he coidd not supple- 
ment his Boston preaching with a more effective 
church organization. There was a Committee of 
Benevolent Action, and twice a year collections 
were taken for its use. The committee met regu- 
larly from October to May, and kept a record of 
its meetings and its work. Individual members 
of the society were generally enlisted in the ranks 
of one or more of the great reforms. One of Par- 
ker's " worlds not realized " was an organization 
of committees upon one or another of these reforms 
that should gather up all the members of the society. 
In public, but of tener in a private way, Parker in- 
stigated his people to helpful action where there 
was some special need. They were not rich, and 
more than once we find Parker insisting on the 


reduction of his salary, in 1847 from 12000 to 
$1600. When there was money to be raised for 
a fugitive slave, or any good purpose, Parker's 
habit was to set the pace himself, wherein he was 
both generous and shrewd. 

Tender associations with Sunday-school work, 
and a profound conviction that " Christian nur- 
ture" was all that Bushnell painted it, made 
Parker desirous of a Sunday-school connected with 
the Twenty-Eighth, but neither of two separate en- 
deavors met with good success, though he gave to 
them his personal oversight, being always present 
at the meetings. Here was a failure which, as 
time went on, cost him some valued friends, whose 
children going to the Sunday-schools of this or 
that neighborhood detached their parents from 
Parker's society and attached them to some other. 
For several years he maintained a Sunday after- 
noon class to which he expounded the New Testa- 
ment after the manner of the higher criticism as 
it was then putting forth its tender green. Those 
slow to hear and swift to speak came with the rest 
and gave Parker ample opportunity to " suffer 
fools gladly," or as best he could. 

Few are the ministers who on Saturday after- 
noons are so disengaged from the next day's ser- 
mon that they can abandon themselves to other 
things. But Parker's sermon was often finished 
before Saturday, and on Saturday afternoons, for 
several years, he invited the women of his society 
to meet in his study for conversation on moral and 


religious subjects. He steered the stream of talk 
with much skill and prudence, and gave a final 
summing up, often surprising to the speakers ; 
they did not know that they had been so wise. A 
whole winter was given to educational problems ; 
questions of women's duties, rights, and opportuni- 
ties were squarely met; intellectual habits were 
studied and the various lessons of experience. One 
good reporter remembered with particular satisfac- 
tion a conversation on the isolation of Jesus, and 
his misfortune in having no intellectual or moral 
superiors to encounter. 

Parker's informal extrusion from the Boston 
Association has, we have seen, too often been im- 
puted to him for total disconnection with the Unita- 
rian denomination, in which the local clique failed 
to present the type of the denominational mind. 
Beyond the Dorchester mountains there were peo- 
ple, some of them Unitarian ministers, who wel- 
comed Parker to their pulpits, and with their 
friendly intimacy and correspondence comforted 
his lonely heart. Then, too, there were such gath- 
erings as those of the Berry Street Conference 
and the American Unitarian Association, which 
drew their constituency from the whole area of the 
denomination, much narrower then than it is now. 
We have met him at the Berry Street Conference 
and seen that he went habitually to its meetings. 
Similar was his attitude towards the American Uni- 
tarian Association. Of this in 1853 Dr. Lothrop 
was president, the same who was the first Unita- 


rian to publicly denounce the South Boston sermon. 
In May of that year the Executive Committee of 
the Association presented a report which attacked 
Parker so directly that more easily could the Ethio- 
pian change his skin than he could have refrained 
from making a reply. Such was the character of 
the document that it excited his sense of humor 
more than his righteous indignation. It contained 
a creed, or statement of belief, written with a 
rhetorical ardor hardly to be expected in such a 
formal declaration. Enumerating the clogs im- 
peding the numerical advance of the denomination 
and the sources of the odium which it incurred, one 
of the chief was found to be " the excessive radi- 
calism and irreverence of some who have stood 
within our own circle," who " have seemed to treat 
the holy oracles and the endeared forms of our 
common religion with contempt." The creed which 
followed the general statement of the condition 
which prevailed was designed to enlighten those 
whom these dangerous persons had deceived. It 
was stupendous in comparison with the Preamble 1 
of 1865, which was the maximum of creed then 
tolerable, or in comparison with the Preamble by 
which that was displaced in 1894. It asserted a 
" profound belief in the Divine origin, the Divine 
authority, the Divine sanctions of the religion of 
Jesus Christ ; " that God " did raise up Jesus to 
aid in our redemption from sin, did by him pour a 

1 To the Constitution of the National Conference of Unitarian 
and other Christian Churches. 


fresh flood of purifying life through the withered 
veins of humanity and along the corrupted chan- 
nels of the world, and is by his religion forever 
sweeping the nations with regenerating gales from 
heaven and visiting the hearts of men with celes- 
tial solicitations." Other clauses declared the 
" supernatural appointment of Jesus as a messenger 
from God," " the supernatural authority of Christ 
as a teacher, his divine mission as a Redeemer,' ' 
and " his moral perfection as an example ; " also 
that the Bible furnishes " an authentic and relia- 
ble record of his life, character, death and resur- 

The loose but shining armor of this elaborate 
exposition was most inviting to that same Socratic 
spear which Parker had used effectively in his en- 
counter with the Boston Association. He criticised 
its " damaged phraseology," — a favorite expression 
with him, if not invented by him as is commonly 
believed, — demanding the meaning of such lan- 
guage as " Christ's sacrifice and intercession," " the 
withered veins of humanity," " divine authority," 
and " infallible truth." He could not agree with 
the Report that " the ultimate fate of the impeni- 
tent wicked is shrouded in impenetrable obscurity." 
To distrust it was to distrust the perfect love of 
God. His questions numbered twenty-eight, each 
one of them lodging somewhere in the hull of the 
three-decker, which, because of such perforation, or 
some fatal leak where rotten timber had been used 
in its construction, rolled over heavily and went 


to the bottom like a stone. It was the most 
elaborate attempt at creed -making in which the 
Unitarians ever have engaged, and it was not en- 
couraging to such undertakings. But the kindly 
formularist bore Parker no ill-will, and soon went 
over to his side ; at his death pronouncing a gen- 
erous eulogy upon him. 

The professional reformer was a type which did 
not attract Parker, and there was no tendency to 
realize it in his character or his career. Neverthe- 
less he was deeply interested in the various reforms 
which marked his period, and would have been more 
active in his service of those which attracted him 
next after anti-slavery if this had not made such 
exorbitant demands upon him. There was nothing 
of the fanatic, little of the enthusiast, in his con- 
cern with war or temperance or penal legislation 
or the condition of women. To the reforms upon 
these lines, as to the anti-slavery reform, he brought 
a sober common sense that was sometimes irritat- 
ing to the more sanguine heralds and champions 
of the " good time coming." He, too, believed 
that it was coming, but not right away. He did 
not find a speedy dawn of the millennium upon the 
cards. He had his visions, but that of Satan fall- 
ing like lightning from his immemorial throne was 
not one of them. Thoroughly optimistic, he was 
so at long range, having no faith in panaceas for 
the regeneration of society. If there was one note 
that recurred oftener than any other in his preach- 
ing it was that of the Divine Immanence in mat- 


ter and in man. He never tired of celebrating the 
natural or human aspect of this truth. But Mar- 
tineau had little reason for anxiety lest at this 
point a genial pantheism should swallow up the 
individual mind and will. His statement was : 
" God is infinite ; therefore he is immanent in 
nature, yet transcending it ; immanent in spirit, yet 
transcending that. He must fill each point of spirit 
as of space ; matter must unconsciously obey ; man, 
conscious and free, has power to a certain extent 
to disobey, but, obeying, the immanent God acts in 
man as much as in nature." Hence inspiration. 
If the conditions are fulfilled, it seems that inspi- 
ration comes in proportion to a man's gifts and his 
use of those gifts. 

Here was the saving clause. It was, perhaps, 
illogical ; a contradiction of his affirmation of the 
Divine Immanence " at each point of spirit." But 
it was Parker's uniform statement, and conse- 
quently man was no passive bucket in the stream 
of infinite soul, but he had " verge and room for 
the measureless expansion " of his intellectual and 
active powers. God was " a good worker," in 
Parker's scheme of thought, but he " liked to be 
helped," and with all his working and man's help 
the rate of progress was, if not discouragingly 
slow, still very slow indeed. 

In 1848 he signed a call for an Anti-Sabbath 
Convention which was written by Mr. Garrison. 
The object was to distinguish the Christian Sun- 
day from the Jewish Sabbath, and save what was 


best in either while letting what was harmful or 
merely superstitious go. In the event some were 
for throwing out the baby with the bath, and Parker 
found himself "too radical for the conservatives, 
too conservative for the radicals, and so between 
two fires, — cross-fires too." Garrison's resolu- 
tions passed, Parker voting for some of them, 
against others. His own set were so severely 
criticised by Garrison, Pillsbury, Foster and Lu- 
cretia Mott that he did not urge their acceptance. 
They were all wise and moderate, the fifth such 
that it accuses our present Sunday manners much 
more generally than those of 1848 : — 

That we should lament to see Sunday devoted to 
labor or to sport ; for though we think all days are 
equally holy, we yet consider that the custom of devot- 
ing one day in the week to spiritual culture is still of 
great advantage to mankind. 

His temperance principles did not commend 
him to the " teetotalers " or prohibitionists. Total 
abstinence was his own rule until his physicians 
insisted on its abrogation. But temperance was to 
him a better way than total abstinence for those who 
were able to receive it. He would have questioned 
the alcohol-poison argument of the school-book 
hygienists which is now much in vogue. A study of 
consumption in his own family convinced him that 
intemperance was a fearful cure for the disease, 
which might however reassert itself in the children 
of the intemperate. He thought Horace Mann a 
victim to his intemperate total abstinence, and that 


Garrison, Phillips, and Samuel J. May all needed 
a little wine for their stomachs' sakes and their 
often infirmities. 

When the Maine Law first went into operation 
he theorized that it was " an invasion of private 
right, but for the sake of preserving the rights of 
all." It was chaining up a dangerous beast. Be- 
lieving that men " who use stimulants moderately 
live longer and have a sounder old age than the 
teetotalers," he was nevertheless convinced that 
nine tenths of the alcohol used was abused, and 
wrote, " The evil is so monstrous, so patent, so 
universal, that it becomes the duty of the State to 
take care of its citizens ; the whole of its parts." 
Could he have lived to see the ultimate working of 
State prohibition his opinion might have under- 
gone a serious change. He wrote of the Maine 
Law, " It makes the whole State an asylum for 
the drunkard" Too true, in a quite different sense 
from that intended. It makes a drunkards' par- 
adise. Without public sentiment behind it, the 
law is void or of no praiseworthy effect. " Local 
option," which insures the public sentiment behind 
the law, is a different matter, and has registered 
successes that would have delighted Parker's soul. 

As the grandson of Captain John Parker it was 
hardly possible for Parker to join the non-resist- 
ants of his day. Moreover, he recognized the 
provisional function of war in the evolution of 
humanity and believed that there were modern 
devils which could best be fought with this par- 


ticular fire. Yet lie was, as we have seen, a care- 
ful student of war in all its sociological, politico- 
economic and humanitarian aspects. He thought 
it useless nine times out of ten. But he would not 
have advised that only roughs and toughs be sent 
to fight. Rather that there should be no wars not 
good enough to deserve the proud self-sacrifice of 
such men as his own Colonel Shaw. One of his 
first letters to Sumner was written after a second 
reading of Sumner's " True Grandeur of Nations " 
in 1845. It was a letter of emphatic commenda- 
tion. Slaveholding would not have been more 
impossible for him than his support of a war, like 
the Mexican, for the extension of slavery, or one 
for the extension of Christianity in heathen parts. 
Yet into the great war of 1861 he would probably 
have entered with all his mind and with all his soul 
and with all his strength. 

He regarded capital punishment as"a terrible 
sin," and questions of prison discipline had perma- 
nent interest for him. He studied them carefully, 
and in his " Perishing Classes of Boston," and 
elsewhere, discussed them in a large, illuminative 
fashion. He anticipated the modern criticism 
on the herding of criminals, calling the Reform 
School at Westboro', Mass., " a school of crime." 

" The woman question," as he apprehended it, 
was not a simple one. Whether women should 
have the suffrage was but a little part of it. Of 
their right to this he was convinced : less perfectly 
that society would be a gainer by their exercise of 


it ; far less that such exercise would set all things 
right. As more affectionate than men, and as 
more intuitional, he regarded women as men's 
superiors, but he could be critical of their con- 
crete development. To questions of marriage and 
divorce he gravitated with persistent interest. 
Womanhood was so sacred in his eyes that pros- 
titution was to him an unspeakable tragedy. One 
of his earlier letters to Colonel Higginson is on 
the blank leaf of a circular describing an associa- 
tion for the protection of girls from idleness and 
temptation. It antedated the unfavorable opin- 
ion of the school at Westboro' quoted above. It 
demanded a similar school for girls. He wrote 
many letters to Charles Loring Brace concern- 
ing Brace's work in New York, and went there to 
make a study of his methods and results. His 
personal relation to individual misery and crime 
was compact of sweet humanity. In a very real 
and vital sense he believed in the humanity of 
Jesus. He believed in it so much, and in such a 
way, that his own heart was full of it and over- 
flowed with beautiful compassion for all suffering 
and sinful folk. 

Society presented itself to Parker, roughly, as 
commercial, ecclesiastical, political, and domestic, 
and in many sermons of great thoroughness and 
power he held up the ideal possibilities upon these 
several lines in contrast with the actual conditions. 
No estimate of his reformatory work would be 
complete which did not include the simplest homi- 


lies with which he searched the hearts of his habit- 
ual hearers or the most casual upon the human 
tide which every Sunday morning set towards 
Music Hall. 

If there ever was a minister at large, an oecu- 
menical bishop, a man of various activity and far- 
reaching influence, that man was Theodore Parker. 
His interest in reformatory measures went but a 
little way to satisfy the claims he made upon him- 
self as the pastor of other sheep than those of his 
own fold. The publication of his ideas in one 
printed form or another went but a little way to 
make up what seemed to him to be lacking in his 
pulpit labors and others of a local character. Be- 
fore his death less than a dozen volumes of his 
writings were published, including the De Wette 
" Introduction." Five others were collections of ser- 
mons, speeches, and addresses. But these volumes 
were the smaller part of his publication. He was 
as much a pamphleteer as Voltaire or De Foe or 
Thomas Paine. A list of his books and pamphlets 
received at the Boston Athenaeum chiefly from the 
writer, between 1841 and 1857, includes forty-two 
titles. An imperfect list of his pamphlets collected 
by Mrs. Parker includes thirty-four titles. Some of 
these had wide circulation. His friends, however, 
were not satisfied, and I find T. W. Higginson in 
1855 urging upon him a scheme for their wider cir- 
culation, and that of his books also. 1 Nothing came 

1 The Discourse had a great circulation in England, from 
40,000 to 50,000 ; in America only 2500 in a dozen years, it be- 
ing a large and costly book. 


of this, through Parker's fear of injuring publish- 
ers who had been brave enough to print his books. 
The " Dial " and the " Massachusetts Quarterly- 
Review " furnished other avenues of approach to 
the public, but, like wisdom's narrow path, with 
only " here and there a traveler." A genial Cam- 
bridge scholar used to speak of his own articles in 
the " Unitarian Review " as " printed, not pub- 
lished," and Parker might have anticipated the 
sorry joke where his magazine articles were in 
question. To Unitarian editors he was not per- 
sona grata,) at either the " Register " or " Exam- 
iner " office. After a silence of seventeen years he 
again speaks in the latter, volume 64, the article an 
elaborate review of Buckle's " History of Civiliza- 
tion," followed in volume 6b by an exhaustive pre- 
sentation of the Material Condition of the People 
of Massachusetts." Dr. Hedge had taken the edi- 
torial helm and Parker was pathetically pleased to 
be one of his crew. 1 His enemies upon the daily 
and weekly press could be relied upon to report 
(oftener to misreport) his significant utterances. 
For friendly service of this kind his best reliance 
was on the " Liberator." I have in hand a careful 
list made by Mr. W. P. Garrison of Parker's mat- 
ter in the " Liberator " from 1846 until 1860. 
There are ninety-seven titles, covering for the most 
part extracts from his speeches and sermons. The 
New York "Tribune" and the New York " Anti- 

1 In volume 51 he has three learned paragraphs on Mosheim, 
Du Cange, and Jal. 


Slavery Standard " afforded similar help. But evi- 
dently there was some further agency required if he 
would bring home his message to the people of 
America in a manner proportionate to its importance 
to their welfare, so far as he could judge from its 
insistent pressure on his own mind and heart. 

The lyceum lectureship, as organized in the 
fourth and fifth decades of the century, did much 
in answer to his crying need. Neither itinerant 
lecturing nor anti-slavery preaching or committee 
work was his heart's desire. He would fain have 
been a quiet scholar and a teacher of reformed reli- 
gion. He wrote in 1851, " I would never preach 
on a political matter again if it were consistent 
with my duty to avoid it ; " and in the same letter, 
" I was meant for a philosopher, and the times call 
for a stump orator." The times knew the man 
better than he knew himself. He was one of the 
most effective of the lecturers who made the Ly- 
ceum in its day a power for intellectual and moral 
elevation in America. Less popular than Beecher 
or Chapin, less brilliant than Phillips, having nei- 
ther the boisterous humor of Gough nor Curtis's 
resistless charm, he had more mass than any one 
of these, with whom he shared the highest honors 
of the field. Lecturing was with him a very seri- 
ous matter, and he gave to it careful preparation. 
If the sermons and the lectures helped each other, 
neither was worse on that account. It was a high 
compliment that he paid to the intelligence of his 
hearers when he brought them such weighty mat- 


ter, but it was well deserved. " I have always 
remembered," writes Colonel Higginson, " a certain 
lecture on the Anglo-Saxon as the most wonderful 
instance that ever came within my knowledge of 
the adaptation of solid learning to the popular 
intellect. Nearly two hours of almost unadorned 
fact, — for there was far less than usual of relief 
and illustration, — and yet the lyceum audience 
listened to it as if an angel sang to them." 

The lyceum lecture was seldom directly theo- 
logical or political, but a suppressio veri was for 
Parker's conscience so near to a suggestio falsi 
that he seldom got through a lecture without insin- 
uating the essential quality of his theological and 
political creed. One of his lectures, which I have 
analyzed in a previous chapter, was a careful expo- 
sition of Transcendentalism. Many of them dealt 
with educational ideas and questions of good gov- 
ernment, the status of women, and other aspects 
of reform. They were mainly sociological ; some- 
times literary ; sometimes biographical. The best 
of the last mentioned were the four called, as 
printed together, " Historic Americans." These 
were written for the " Parker Fraternity," which 
was instituted by the members of the Twenty- 
Eighth Society for social purposes and to give 
Parker that chance to be heard in Boston as a 
lecturer which was denied him by the regular dis- 
pensaries. The "Jefferson" was never given; 
the other three, " Franklin," " Washington," and 
" Adams," were given in October, 1858, the last 


good working month of Parker's life. 1 They are 
all wonderfully fresh and strong, studied and writ- 
ten carefully, the " Franklin " twice rewritten, 
illustrating his equal passion for facts and for 
ideas. There is no sentimental idealization, but 
a brave attempt to see each character, in intellec- 
tual and moral habit, as it was. It is eloquent 
for his breadth of sympathy and appreciation that 
he regarded Franklin as the greatest of the four, 
despite his lack of elevation and his adhesion to 
that philosophical system — the sensational — for 
which Parker had but scant respect. The lectures 
intended more than information. They were meant 
to illustrate those principles which were imbedded 
in the foundations of our government and to de- 
mand obedience to them as essential to all true suc- 
cess. It was not yet time to flout those principles 
as good enough for the day of small things, but 
superseded by a civilization globing in the long 
distance telephone and the lyddite shell. There 
was no wrenching of the facts to his conclusions. 
Their most obvious implications were sufficient to 
enmesh such prowlers in the jungle of contempo- 
rary politics as were required for his menagerie. 

The contraction of his preaching-field by the 
hostility of the local clergy was fundamental to 

1 As if divining his fatal illness, he made only one lecture 
engagement for the season of 1858-59, and that was to lecture in 
my own Brooklyn church, November 10, 1858. He was then just 
recovering from a painful operation and could barely walk, so 
that the engagement was not kept, and the new church building 
missed what would have been a second consecration. 


his resort to lecturing as a means of bringing the 
message of which he was profoundly conscious to 
bear upon the popular mind. During the winter 
following his return from Europe, 1844-45, he 
lectured forty times. For many years there are 
no data. In the middle fifties he kept a careful 
account of his engagements, with time tables, plans 
of lecture tours, correspondents, and finally lists of 
the lectures that were given and the gross and net 
amounts received. These were not large, for the 
ground covered and the labor done. In 1853-54 
he lectured fifty-eight times; in 1854-55 sixty- 
eight, and the net proceeds were $1394.77. The 
season of 1855-56 was the top-notch. He lec- 
tured ninety-eight times and the net proceeds were 
$1783.96. The next season there was a falling 
off to seventy-one, caused by sickness and absorp- 
tion in the Kansas troubles. The fees were often 
liberal for the ante-bellum time, $50 or more, but 
the average was pulled down by lectures whose 
virtue was their own reward. When the receipts 
were but one dollar and the expenses were sixty 
cents the lecturer's honor was without much profit. 
Once he discovers that he had repeated a lecture of 
the year before, and declines the proffered fee when 
going again to the same place. Severe and noble 
was the conscientiousness with which he defended 
the Music Hall preaching against the invasion of 
his lectures on the order of his life. They were 
given in New England for the most part, and so 
timed as to permit of his return to Boston for his 


Sunday sermon, though much of the sermon was 
often written on the cars. Writing William E. 
Herndon, the law partner of Abraham Lincoln, 
April 17, 1856, he says : — 

Your letters — the printed matter not less than the 
written — rejoice me very much. I honor the spirit 
that breathes in them all. I did not answer before, for 
I had no time, and a hundred letters lie before me now 
not replied to. When I tell you that I have lectured 
eighty-four times since November 1st, and preached at 
home every Sunday but two, when I was in Ohio, and 
have had six meetings a month at my own house and 
have written more than 1000 letters, besides doing a 
variety of other work belonging to a minister and scholar, 
you may judge that I must economize minutes and often 
neglect a much valued friend. 

A few characteristic incidents of his lecturing 
appear in a letter to Miss Sarah Hunt, one of 
his most highly valued friends. The letter was 
written on the cars somewhere in northern New 

This will be the last winter of my lecturing so exten- 
sively (perhaps). Hereafter I will limit my services 
to forty 1 lectures in a winter, and put my terms, as 
Chapin does, at F. A. M. E., i. e., Fifty (dollars) And 
My Expenses. 

This business of lecturing is an original American 
contrivance for educating the people. The world has 
nothing like it. In it are combined the best things of 
the Church, i. e. y the preaching, and of the College, i. e., 

1 There were only twenty-five for the season 1857-58, and few 
of them were of Dr. Chapin's kind. 


the informing thought, with some of the fun of the 
Theatre. . . . Surely some must dance after so much 
piping and that of so moving a sort. I can see what 
a change has taken place through the toil of these mis- 
sionaries. But none know the hardships of the lectur- 
er's life. ... In one of the awful nights in winter I 

went to lecture at . It was half charity. I gave 

up the Anti-slavery Festival, rode fifty-six miles in the 
cars, leaving Boston at half past four o'clock, and reach- 
ing the end of the railroad at half past six — drove 

seven miles in a sleigh, and reached the house of , 

who had engaged me to come. It was time ; I lectured 
one hour and three quarters and returned to the house. 
Was offered no supper before the lecture, and none 
after, till the sleigh came to the door to take me back 
again to the railroad station, [town ?] seven miles off, 
where I was to pass the night and take the cars at half 
past six the next morning. 

Luckily I always carry a few little creature comforts 
in my wallet. I ate a seed cake or two and a fig, with 
lumps of sugar. We reached the tavern at eleven, could 
get nothing to eat at that hour, and, as it was a temper- 
ance house, not a glass of ale, which is a good night- 
cap. It took three quarters of an hour to thaw out : — 
went to bed at twelve in a cold room, was called up at 
five, had what is universal — a tough steak, sour bread, 

potatoes swimming in fat. wanted me to deduct 

from my poor fifteen dollars the expenses of my noc- 
turnal ride, but I " could not make the change." . . . 

Monday last at seven, George and I walked down to 
the Lowell Depot, and at eight started for Rouse's Point, 
two hundred and eighty-seven miles off ; sick and only 
fit to lie on a sofa, and have day-dreams of you, sweet 
absent ones ! and think over again the friendly endear- 
ments that are past, but may yet return. A dreadful 


hard ride ends at nine P. M., and I find myself in the 
worst tavern (pretending to decency) in the Northern 
States. Bread which defies eating, crockery which 
sticks to your hands, fried fish as cold as when drawn 
from the lake. Rise at half past four, breakfast (?) at 
five, off in the cars at half past five, lecture at Malone 
that night, lie all day on the sofa, ditto at Potsdam next 
day. The third day, leave Potsdam at nine, and reach 
Champlain (if I get there) at half past eight, spending 
ten and a half hours in traveling by railroad ninety- 
three miles ! Thence after lecture to Rouse's Point, 
and at half past five to-morrow morning return to the 
cars which are to take me home. 

Next week, three days in the " East Counties," and 
the next four days in Central New York. That, I hope, 
ends the business, bating nine or ten more in April and 

But none of these things moved Parker from 
his conviction that the lecturing was worth all its 
cost, though it would be little or no exaggeration 
to say that it cost him his life. It was the mis- 
erable discomfort of a particular journey in Febru- 
ary, 1857, that was the most obvious beginning of 
the end. He was not extravagant in his estimate 
of what the lectures did. There is a letter in 
which he assumes that in each hundred of his 
audience he made a real impression on a certain 
(very small) number. He then multiplies this 
number by all the hundreds composing his various 
audiences, and comforts himself with the assurance 
that a few hundred every year were led by him to 
larger views of life and a more serious application 


to its work. If there was any excess here it was 
on the side of modesty. More of his seed than he 
dared hope fell into good ground and bore abun- 
dant fruit. 

Yet it was, perhaps, Parker's correspondence that 
made him a successful minister at large more than 
his lecturing. No man ever gave himself out more 
freely than did he through this medium. When 
he writes to Mr. Herndon of one thousand letters 
written in five months, we are taken but a little 
way, for a good many of us write as many. And 
when he writes to the same person of one hundred 
letters waiting to be answered we are not much 
impressed ; or should not be if we did not know 
what Parker's letters meant. There are letters 
and letters, as well as deacons and deacons. Par- 
ker's were of many kinds. There were little notes 
among them, but what is truly remarkable is the 
number of letters containing thousands of words 
and great masses of careful exegesis and elabo- 
rate information. The multitude of his letters and 
his correspondents is far less impressive than the 
prodigality with which he poured himself forth, 
the patience with which he answered questions 
which were often trivial, the faithfulness with 
which he kept up a correspondence with strangers 
whom he would fain enlighten or encourage, year 
after year. At this point I let go those letters of 
the scholar and the thinker in which his corre- 
spondence abounds, and those to the political lead- 
ers of the time, Sumner, Hale, Seward, Chase, 


Mann and others, which were an extension of his 
anti-slavery word and work, and those of personal 
friendship which were as numerous and full as if 
he had nothing to do but write such letters, and 
address myself for a few pages to those in which 
he was " the friend and aider of those who would 
live in the spirit," who were full of doubts and 
questionings, for whom the burden of the tradi- 
tional theology or the horror of great darkness it 
had left behind was more than they could bear. 
The letters which came back to him from such 
correspondents show with what gratitude they re- 
ceived his help. Many were the friendships that 
began in this way and went on for many years. 
One of the rarest was with Patience Ford of Dor- 
chester, Mass. Her home minister was Nathaniel 
Hall, of whom Parker, never lacking in apprecia- 
tion of a faithful minister, wrote : — 

If there are any pious ministers — and I think there 
are many — he is one, and one of the most excellently 
pious. . . . He has an unction from the Holy One if 
any have it nowadays. 

Mr. Parker's correspondence with this lady be- 
gan in 1841, and his last letter to her bears a ten 
years later date. His own piety never shows more 
sweetly than in his dealing, at once sympathetic 
and corrective, with her mystic exaltation. He 
warns her that she must not " dwell amid the sen- 
timental flowers of religion, charmed by their love- 
liness and half bewildered by their perfume," but 


live an active human life. " We must not only 
fly, but, as we mount up, we must take others on 
our wings ; for God gives one more strength than 
the rest only that he may therewith help the weak." 
A series of letters to Robert White, Jr., of New 
York, is beautiful with Parker's patience towards 
a type of thought with which he had no sympathy. 
Mr. White, whose daughter Anna is now presiding 
over the Shaker community at New Lebanon, was 
an uncle of Richard Grant White. He was a non- 
resident Shaker. Parker's answers to his letters 
are elaborate, and so much was he attracted to 
the man whose opinions he broke like butterflies 
upon his critical wheel, that long before they met 
Parker's feeling for his correspondent was that 
of warm affection. The correspondence began in 
1848 and continued nine or ten years — till Mr. 
White's death. One of November 29, 1850, runs : 

The kindness of your letters surprises me as much as 
their beauty. I thank you for all the generosity of 
affection which you have always shown for me and ex- 
tended even to my writings ; at the same time you have 
made a deep impression on my heart, and, though I 
have never seen your face, yet your character has made 
an image of your person in my breast which will not 
depart from me. 

Of elaborate letters to orthodox ministers chaf- 
ing in the traditional harness a series to Rev. M. 
A. H. Niles, who once preached in Marblehead, 
afterward in Northampton, is a fair sample, and of 
the pains he often took with such. One of these, 


a letter of six thousand words, goes over the whole 
ground in dispute between him and orthodoxy. 
His view of its most terrible dogma is nowhere 
more pronounced : " To believe the eternal dam- 
nation of any one of the human race is to me worse 
than to believe in the utter annihilation of all ; for 
I take it the infinite damnation of one soul would 
make immortality a curse to the race." He would 
have been well-pleased with Robert Buchanan's 
sentiment : — 

If there is doom for one, 
Thou, Maker, art undone. 

Nothing pleased Parker more than to find that 
he had given light or strength or peace to people 
of the humbler sort. Among the letters that came 
to him when he was leaving America in 1859, 
never to return, was one from John Brown, " a 
poor blacksmith " in Dutchess County, New York. 
He wrote : — 

Although we differ somewhat materially in our theo- 
logical opinions, I have long been an enthusiastical ad- 
mirer of your talents and virtues as a man, a scholar, 
and a gentleman. I take this method of conveying to 
you my heartfelt sympathy. . . . And in so doing I 
believe (in fact I know it to be so) I 'm expressing the 
sentiments of hundreds, if not thousands, in the circle 
of my acquaintance, which is pretty large throughout 
the State. 

With this belongs a series (with the answers) 
written to a poor fellow in Illinois who almost 
simultaneously had lost his left hand and his grip 


on the popular theology. In the winter of 1854-55 
he comes upon Parker's " Discourse " and with it 
a new spiritual world. He would like to come to 
Boston, but Parker advises him to stay in Illinois 
and live down the ill-opinion which his heresies 
have won for him. His letters show the course of 
his development from illiterate crudity to no mean 
culture and power of self-expression. He circu- 
lates Parker's books and pamphlets, and " can see 
a gradual and steadily advancing inquiry after 
truth." His mind is settled as to his future object 
in life. "It is my wish to follow in your footsteps 
and preach to others the truths you have awakened 
in my mind." But with his one hand he does a 
farmer's work and can boast of seventeen acres of 
good corn. In September, 1858, he was sick and 
nigh to death. " There was no doubt, no fear, 
but a peaceful happiness came over me." Par- 
ker's last letter to him bears the date of December 
2, 1858, when his own work was nearly finished. 
One of his consolations was that he had many such 
missionaries of his gospel going up and down the 
land, and others like Peter Robertson, in Scot- 
land, a diligent disseminator of his opinions. They 
were here and there and everywhere. Rakhal 
Das Haldar, an intelligent Brahmin, wrote him 
from India of the interest in his writings wher- 
ever there was intelligent conversation on religious 
topics among his countrymen. 

This ministry at large of Parker's correspond- 
ence, which did so much to extend his influence 


beyond the limits of his spoken word, found in his 
relations with Frances Power Cobbe one of its 
finest illustrations. His writings did not convert 
her from orthodoxy, as one often hears, but con- 
firmed her in opinions she had already formed in 
1845 when the " Discourse " first came into her 
possession. Her mother died soon after, and it 
was from the help which she then derived from 
Parker's " Sermon of the Immortal Life " and from 
his correspondence, which began in 1848, that 
a friendship took its rise which hardly needed 
mutual acquaintance to make it a perfect thing. 
They did not meet till he was standing at death's 
door. But before that, and especially after, she 
did more than any one else in Great Britain to 
make his great salvation known. 



January 17, 1847, Parker writes to Mrs. Dall, 
for many years a valued friend, the more valued 
because she withstood him to the face when she 
thought he ought to be blamed : — 

Here I am in Boston ; it is Sunday night, the first 
Sunday night I have passed in Boston these ten years. 
But for the trouble of removing the household and my 
books, I should have answered your letter before now. 

This means that he had kept on living in West 
Roxbury for a year after his entire surrender of his 
Spring Street pastorate. The change was hard for 
him. He missed the open fields, the stroll across 
lots to the Russells and the Shaws, the tending and 
keeping of his own plot of ground. To get back 
there for a day always made a bright spot on his 
journal's page, unless the dearest friend that he 
had left behind happened to be away. The new Bos- 
ton home was in Exeter Place, the house touching 
gardens with that of Wendell Phillips. It was a 
roomy house, but not sufficiently so for the books 
which overflowed it from top to bottom before long. 
In West Roxbury he had made the cases with his 


own hands, and, if these did not go to Boston, 
others quite as simple served for the most part. 
The whole of the fourth floor was given up to them, 
and from thence the inundation poured downstairs, 
filling the bath-room on the way, pausing reluctant 
only at the kitchen door. At one angle of his desk 
stood Thorwald sen's head of Jesus, at another a 
bronze Spartacus. 1 On the same shelf with these 
there was often a vase of flowers. There were 
those who knew how much he loved them, and they 
kept him well supplied. The window near his 
desk gave unobstructed light, but the others were 
green with ivies and other plants on which he 
lavished wise and tender care. Hunting for wild 
flowers in their known haunts was one of his most 
exquisite delights. He knew just when the vio- 
lets should bloom upon his mother's grave in the 
old burying ground in Lexington, and they seldom 
failed to keep their tryst with him. 

There were two members of the family besides 
Mr. and Mrs. Parker. He wrote to Miss Cobbe 
in 1857 : — 

A young man by the name of Cabot, one and twenty 
years old, lives with us. We have brought him up from 
infancy. . . . An unmarried lady, a little more than 
fifty years old — Miss [Hannah] Stevenson — a woman 
of fine talents and culture, interested in all the literatures 

1 Nearer his hand there was a little covered wooden vase or urn 
in which he kept red wafers. It was made from the oak of Old 
Ironsides and was given to him by Caroline Thayer. Mrs. Parker 
finally gave it back to Miss Thayer, who at once gave it to me with 
words more precious than the thing. 


and humanities, is with us. These are the permanent 
family to which visitors make frequent and welcome 

By that last sentence hangs a tale of various 
incidents. The Parkers were given to hospitality. 
The casual friend was always dropping in and find- 
ing irresistible the cordial invitation to " the break- 
ing of bread." If sometimes it was the rich neigh- 
bor, it was oftener the maimed, the halt, the lame 
and the blind, the scholar or adventurer from over- 
seas, some revolutionist of '48 or black man in dis- 
tress. The spare bed was in constant requisition. 
Those who came hungering for " better bread than 
could be made of wheat " were also fed. In the pri- 
vacy of the study many sorrows and anxieties were 
poured into a patient ear ; many failures were con- 
fessed and many burdens were relieved. We read 
of a husband and wife going to him separately with 
their domestic trouble and finding out long after 
that both had got the help that made them one 
again from the same friend ; also of a young Scot 
whose encyclical letter was addressed " to some 
Christian minister in America," and who, paradox- 
ical as it may seem, was advised that Parker was 
his man. The book, the pleasure, the sermon was 
put aside to answer any human cry. Delightful 
was the prospect of a New Hampshire outing 
kindly planned for him when he was tired and sick, 
but there came a poor colored woman asking him 
to attend her baby's funeral and the pleasant hope 
was cheerfully resigned. 


Between nine and ten in the evening he often 
took a little rest, slipping down into the parlor to 
chat with those who might be there. That was 
his time for cutting the leaves of new books, at 
the same time reading them as by some special gift. 
Doubts being expressed as to what he could get in 
that way, he challenged examination, and it was 
discovered that somehow the book had passed into 
his mind. His writing also was a mystery. Weiss 
writes of complaints of its illegibility as early as 
1841, but I find that, while in his Divinity School 
days it was stiff and boyish, hardly had he settled 
in West Roxbury before it had taken on that 
hieroglyphic character which meant confusion for 
the printers and his friends. Sometimes there 
was flat rebellion in the printer's office : " Metcalf 
absolutely refuses to print from your handwrit- 
ing ; it must be copied, or he must be paid double." 
And again : " In this respect I think you some- 
times abuse your privileges. A man so ready to 
avow his opinions in speech ought not to conceal 
them so cunningly when he writes." 

The uniqueness of his public station left un- 
spoiled the gentle pieties of his personal life. 
Every morning, after breakfast, a portion of Scrip- 
ture was read, and it was not omitted on that 
morning when he was setting out for the West 
Indies and a more distant bourne. One of his 
habits was perversely clerical. Black broadcloth 
was his only wear. Questioned about it, he ex- 
plained that, where he must say and do so many 


things which gave offense, it seemed best to "go 
with the multitude " where there was no principle 
at stake. Sufficiently self-assertive in the main, 
he was ever ready to efface himself when by so 
doing he could help a worthy cause, and to serve 
them better he withheld his name from many enter- 
prises of which he was the originating force. 

Every Sunday evening there was a general wel- 
come to his friends, 1 which brought them together in 
good numbers, filling the rooms sometimes to over- 
flowing, and few were those who went away without 
a sense of some personal contact with Parker over 
and above the average pleasantness to make them 
glad that they had gone and determine them to 
go again. His exuberance at these social gather- 
ings was inexhaustible. To the scholar he gave 
his learning, to the reformer his sympathy, to the 
young student encouragement and good advice, 
sincerity and simplicity to all. It was in smaller 
companies that his frolic temper had full swing. 
One of his favorite diversions was the doings of 
the " Sirty," an imaginary club of which Edward 
Everett was "a dog-day member," and to which 
Dr. Parkman and other dignitaries belonged. The 
scheme was fertile in absurdities in which there was 
little of real wit or humor, but much kindly laugh- 
ter, with many execrable puns. He let himself 

1 Among whom came Mrs. Howe with an ill opinion of Gar- 
rison, and soon found herself singing from the same hymn-book 
with him, he nothing like so black as her new Boston friends 
had painted him. 


go in many of his letters in the same nonsensical 
fashion. Sometimes it meant a merry heart ; some- 
times, like Lincoln's gayety, an inward wound that 
must somehow be stanched or keep its secret hid. 

Of all his visitors none were more welcome than 
the little children, who, climbing painfully to his 
upper floor, and, much out of breath, knocking and 
crying " Parkie ! " " Parkie ! " were let in with an 
unfeigned delight. He might be deep in study or 
in mid-course of his sermon : for the time being his 
only care was to entertain his guest. He did that 
royally. There were toys kept for such visitors, 
and the great family collection of bears, all com- 
plimentary to " Bearsie," as Mrs. Parker was habit- 
ually called, was exhibited. For a new-comer there 
was always one of these to spare. He had pet 
names for the children, " Bits o' Blossoms," " Mites 
o' Teants," and one, who grew up to be Boston's 
first musical critic, was " Hippopotamus," a name 
of which there were such diminutives and variants 
as he could invent. When he went lecturing there 
were never so many books stuffed in his gripsack 
to be read on the train but that a nook was found 
for a little bag of candy, whereby fretful children 
were beguiled, while tired mothers got their sweet- 
ness in the sympathy of the unknown friend plead- 
ing with them to suffer the little children to come 
unto him. From a chance meeting with a young 
man on one of these journeys there sprang a cor- 
respondence which gave new and better direction 
to the young man's life. 


Parker's relation to young men was always 
kindly, cordial, sympathetic. From his eighteenth 
year onward he was always helping one young man 
or another to get an education. Sometimes it 
was a girl ; once the daughter of his early teacher, 
Rev. William White, and his letters to her were 
more precious than the pecuniary help. My friend, 
Rev. Joseph May, of Philadelphia, a son of Par- 
ker's friend, Samuel J. May, of Syracuse, telling 
his own story, shows very pleasantly what Parker's 
habits were. To much good advice he added a 
hair mattress and a costly dictionary of mythology. 
" Every year, knowing my father's means were 
small, he sent a considerable check to me to help 
pay my college bills." With the good outward 
help went such as could not be expressed in terms 
of current coin : — 

Of all the influences whatever which have tended to 
develop in me the religious sentiment, the influence of 
his character, preaching, prayers, was altogether and 
peculiarly preeminent. It stands out in my conscious- 
ness distinct from all others ; and it was the influence 
of character, of which preaching and prayers were only 
the expression. 

A highly characteristic letter is that (circum 
1858) to two of the Garrison boys, William and 
Wendell. The elder's part discusses the advan- 
tages of a college course for him versus a business 
career. To Wendell, then in college, he writes, 
" Literature is a good staff but a poor crutch, 
and reform makes but a poor profession for any 


one." The following is interesting in comparison 
with the subsequent careers of the men named 
herein : — 

I hope your friend Hallowell justifies the high hopes 
formed of him both in talent and character. Russell 
and Shaw in the class before you, I hope will do no dis- 
credit to their fathers and mothers — old friends of 
mine. Spaulding I am sure of. 

Shaw was Robert G., whose subsequent career 
is sufficiently indicated by the Shaw Memorial 
on Boston Common. Hallowell was colonel of the 
55th Massachusetts Volunteers, the next colored 
regiment to Shaw's. Russell was a colonel of 
Massachusetts Cavalry in the great war ; his wife 
a daughter of the distinguished merchant and 
patriot, John M. Forbes. A letter from my friend, 
the Spaulding of this letter (Rev. Henry G.), 
gives a good idea of Parker's dealings with young 
men. In 1858 or thereabout Spaulding was room- 
ing in a small, low-studded chamber at the top of 
a students' boarding-house. There was a heavy 
step on the stair one evening and a loud knock at 
the door, and to his " Come in ! " entered Theodore 
Parker, who had heard that he was working his 
way through college and had come to say that, 
should he find himself hard pressed at any time, 
he had a good parishioner who would help him 
out. Spaulding was very grateful, but thought 
there would be no occasion for such help. There 
was, however, a few months later, and Parker was 
taken at his word. It was a cold and rainy March 


day, the streets full of slush and mud, and, in spite 
of protest, Parker put off his dressing gown and 
slippers and put on his overcoat and boots and 
went through the storm to his friend's house ; 
when he had made the student and his friend 
acquainted taking a gracious leave. After this, 
Spaulding often took tea with Parker, Sunday 
evenings. The simple meal concluded, Parker 
would ask him to go to the piano and play such 
dear old tunes as " Dundee " and " Brattle Street " 
and " Naomi " and " St. Martin's." The piano was 
a gift from his parishioners, whose letter of gift, 
with their names appended, is one of many similar 
tokens that I find like flowers between his jour- 
nal's leaves, keeping their fragrance still. 

Parker's interest was very great in those men 
who were imbued with his liberal spirit and were 
engaged in religious enterprises of a more or less 
independent character. Upon his list, " pretty 
good for a beginning," he counted "Johnson at 
Lynn, Higginson at Worcester, Kimball at Barre, 
Longfellow at Brooklyn, Frothingham at Jersey 
City, May at Syracuse, Mayo at Albany, and Wil- 
liam H. Fish in Tompkins County." There are 
many letters to Mr. Fish, a brave co-worker upon 
anti-slavery lines. In his invincible old age, he still 
cherishes among his most precious recollections that 
of Parker's early sympathy. Kimball at Barre 
has " left no memorial " except the noble ser- 
mon which Parker preached at his installation. I 
have read all the correspondence between Colonel 


Higginson and Parker, back and forth, and it pre- 
sents a delightful picture of their mutual relations. 
Each was ready at all times to help on the other's 
work in any obvious way. Parker was always 
more than glad to lend Higginson (or any one) his 
books, or place his great store of knowledge at his 
service. Higginson was anxious to contrive some 
means of giving Parker's published writings ampler 
verge. One of his letters from Parker is addressed 
" Rev. General Higginson," in token of his militia 
prophecy of actual service in the field. The last 
bears the date January 12, 1859, when Parker was 
about to leave Boston forever. 

Many thanks for the offer to help me, but I shall have 
all in statu quo. I have much grass down, not yet made 
into hay. I know not if it will ever be got into the 

That we miss from Parker's list of " Parkerite " 
preachers the name of David A. Wasson would 
be more strange if Wasson had been at the time 
of his writing in charge of a society. Their mu- 
tual appreciation was of the warmest kind with 
one exception : Parker's opinion of Swedenborg was 
a qualified admiration, 1 Wasson's more thorough- 

1 Letter to Albert Sanford, Esq., August 24, 1853. " Sweden- 
borg has had the fate to be worshiped as a half -god on the one 
side and on the other to be despised and laughed at. It seems to 
me that he was a man of genius, wide learning, of deep and genu- 
ine piety. But he had an abnormal, queer sort of mind, dreamy, 
dozy, clairvoyant, Andre w-Jaekson-Davisy ; and besides he loved 
opium and strong coffee, and wrote under the influence of those 
drugs. A wise man may get many nice bits out of him and be 


going. But if Parker could have known that in 
1865 Wasson would be installed as minister of 
the Twenty-Eighth his heart would have rejoiced. 
This circumstance, however, owing to Wasson's 
miserable health, portended but a brief felicity for 
the society. 

In his " Eecollections and Impressions," Mr. 
Frothingham's tone concerning Parker is much 
warmer than in his " Boston Unitarianism," where 
his dramatic sympathy with the coterie he had un- 
dertaken to portray seemed to necessitate a certain 
coldness towards the man whom that coterie could 
not abide. " To be in his society," he says, " was 
to be impelled in the direction of all nobleness. 
He talked with me, lent me books, stimulated my 
thirst for knowledge, opened new visions of useful- 
ness. It was a privilege to know such a man, so 
simple and so brave." He writes to Parker April 
14, 1851, from Salem, Mass., where he was then 
settled : — 

You know how I am placed ; in the midst of Hun- 
kerdom ! No word of sympathy or comfort reaches 
me from a parishioner ; no word of encouragement from 
a single person, I do not say of station and influence 
but of solid intelligence and weighty character. Even 
" the elect women," those true reliances of a young 

healthier for such eating ; but if he swallows Swedenborg whole, as 
the fashion is with his followers — why it lays (sic) hard in the 
stomach, and the man has a nightmare on him all his natural life, 
and talks about ' the Word,' and ' the Spirit,' ' correspondences,' 
' receivers.' Yet the Swedenborgians have a calm and religious 
beauty in their lives which is much to be admired." 


minister, withdraw from me their slim and sentimental 
support, with here and there a solitary exception. At 
home you know how it is. I do not like to speak of it. 
I hate to think of it. I even dislike to go into my 
father's house. I say this in no complaining spirit, but 
only as explaining the hearty comfort and refreshing 
joy that your words and example give me. 

Then follows a very characteristic and elaborate 
bit of self-depreciation, and when Frothingham 
has cleansed his bosom of that perilous stuff he 
goes on : — 

Sometimes, I confess, my faith does waver, but not 
for any long time. Let me acknowledge most humbly 
that much of its steadiness and persistency are due to 
you. When I come to see you it is to the end that it 
may be increased and confirmed. . . . You do me good, 
and that is more than can be said of many a person who 
certainly never offends me by any moral exaggerations. 

The friendliness of Parker's life had much vari- 
ety. The centre of incandescence was in the 
bosom of his beloved Twenty-Eighth, and the radi- 
ation of the photosphere was bounded only by the 
circumference of the earth. Space set no limits 
to the personal relationship which he established 
with men and women who looked to him for aid 
and counsel from the four corners of the world. 
" Dear friend," began a letter from a Quaker out 
in Indiana, and went on to tell of the help received 
from Parker's books and then broke off sharply 
and began again : " Dear Theodore : We are just 
returned from the funeral of our child, and our 


hearts turn first to thee for sympathy." This note 
continually recurs. It might be said of him, as it 
was said of St. Francis, " He remembered those 
whom God seemed to have forgotten." One of 
these was a poor woman who sent him a letter ad- 
dressed, "Preacher of the Infidel Congregation." 
She had been told that " the infidels helped every- 
body " and that was her reason for coming to him. 
He found her desperately poor, explained to her, 
" Others call us Infidels, but we try to be Chris- 
tians," and justified her piteous hope. He was 
past master in the art of doing little kindnesses. 
He would not send, he carried, the flowers from 
his pulpit to a paralytic woman from week to week, 
and helped her husband wheel her round to Exeter 
Place. Every day during one of the fugitive 
Slave troubles he saved a few moments for a sick 
girl of his congregation. His large charity did 
not stop short of Abby Folsom's wildest aberra- 
tions. " That flea of conventions," as Emerson 
has named her for all time, accounted herself one 
of Parker's sheep. " Satan himself," says Mrs. 
Cheney, " could hardly have devised a cunninger 
plan to try a good man's patience than this woman. 
She seated herself directly in front of Mr. Parker 
every Sunday and his sensitive nerves trembled 
lest she should speak." Her gratitude and respect 
at last kept her quiet, but Parker held the organ 
in reserve for an emergency. 

People who imagined themselves infidels were 
much in the habit of summoning Parker when the 


shadow of death fell on their homes. At one of 
these funerals he prayed, " O God, though he de- 
nied thy existence, yet he obeyed thy law." An- 
other he describes : — 

Tuesday I attended the funeral of a girl five or six 
years old, whose parents do not believe in the continuous 
and conscious life of the soul. It was terribly sad. The 
friends that I talked with were skeptical and conceited. 
I have seldom attended a sadder funeral. They wished 
no form of prayer, but for decency's sake wanted a min- 
ister. I suppose they sent for me as the minimum of 
a minister. I tried to give them the maximum of hu- 
manity. ... I see not how any one can live without a 
continual sense of immortality. I am sure that I should 
be wretched without a certainty of it. 

Another funeral, a few weeks later, was very 

April 21 [1848], Friday. To-day I attended the 
funeral of Mr. Garrison's youngest child, Elizabeth 
Pease, sixteen months old. It was a beautiful service. 
We talked of Death, Immortality, of the Philosophy 
of Grief, its existence, cause, mission, etc. There was 
indeed sadness, but it was of that quiet and composed 
kind which blesses, and helps the wound close and heal 
again. I felt that it was well with the child, and well 
also with the father and mother. 

Garrison had already found in Parker a preacher 
after his own heart, and Parker's sympathy with 
him in his day of trouble drew Garrison to him by 
a securer bond. Much that is said of Garrison's 
intolerance of difference gets an instructive com- 


ment from the fact that Parker's political anti- 
slavery and his criticism of Garrison's disunion and 
non-voting principles did no injury to their alli- 
ance and made Parker no less welcome on the 
platform of the Anti-Slavery Society. 

Suicide or death in any tragic form made sensi- 
ble additions to the extent of Parker's ministry at 
large. He seldom failed in his endeavor to adapt 
himself to such occasions. Once, where the cir- 
cumstance was particularly horrible, he transfig- 
ured it with a magic phrase. After describing the 
beautiful life of the good physician, who, after 
saving many, could not save himself, he said, " As 
he grew older the bodily frame was weaker, the 
brain tottered, and — he became immortal." 

No one ever recognized the claims of relation- 
ship upon him more cordially than Theodore Par- 
ker. He was a human providence to many of his 
relatives ; where spontaneous affection did not fur- 
nish the necessary impulse, duty coming to his 
aid. He adapted himself to each particular charac- 
ter and need with remarkable facility. With his 
brother Isaac he was more farmer than the man 
to whom he wrote. If he did not " glory in the 
goad," his " talk was of bullocks " and of every- 
thing that concerned the brother who had remained 
upon the Lexington farm. From Europe he wrote 
him dozens of pages at a time about the agricul- 
tural life that he had seen, never foolishly endeav- 
oring to interest him in his theological or archaeo- 
logical researches. To many of his young relatives 


and friends he wrote letters of such homely wisdom 
that Benjamin Franklin could have done no bet- 
ter if the task had fallen to him. His philosophy 
might be transcendental, but so practical was he in 
every-day affairs that men of business found in 
him their match on their own ground. Friends 
looked to him for advice about their investments. 
In one of his letters he reports that he had in- 
vested $150,000 for others during a term of years. 
To one relative he writes : — 

Dear John, — The house will be a nice thing. It is 
well to own the house you live in, but not dwelling 
houses in general. ... I hope you will buy a nice 
house, such as you like, with sun in the kitchen. A 
house on the south side of the street is worth much 
more than one on the north. You want the sun in the 
back part. 

To another relative, about her husband's plans 
and purposes : — 

I don't like to advise him with so little knowledge of 
the facts. But one thing I am sure of, — if he goes 
back to Lexington he will do nothing, and ten years 
hence he will be driving some other man's milk cart 
at eighteen dollars a month, with no chance of any 
better fortune before him for life. I trust he will not 
waste his time and money in a visit ; and also that he 
will not return to live here. . . . He has made a bad 
experiment. He must be wiser next time. But to re- 
turn to Lexington would be a yet worse experiment : 
he might as well go into partnership with " Bije Perry " 
at once as a general loafer. 


This tribute of frankness he paid not only to 
blood relationship, but to whatever exigency his 
correspondence might present, requiring plainest 
speech. Here is a " charge " to a young minister, 
not of the usual installation kind ; more like the 
gunner's solid shot, letting through daylight where 
it goes : — 

I hope you are not going to break poor 's heart 

with sorrow, disappointment, and chagrin. She is your 
wife : you are bound to treat her more tenderly than 
yourself; to sacrifice your own personal predilections 
for her. You say she must have a husband whom she 
can admire and be proud of. It is for you to give her 
such a husband ; to make such a husband for her out of 
yourself. It is not manly in you to be out of employ- 
ment. ... If there is any manhood in you, you will 
work. . . . Let the new responsibilities of marriage stir 
you to fresh efforts. I beg you not to put all the self- 
denial on , but to take that to yourself. 

He could put on this sternness, but it was not 
his customary face. This is better seen in such a 
letter as that which he writes to a " dear little 
maiden " who has been crossed in love. Burnt 
spots in the woods, he tells her, bear the earliest 
plants and the most delicate flowers. " So can it 
be with you ; so I trust it will be." To a young 
friend whose wife had perished in her early bloom, 
he wrote : — 

I see the effect this is to have on your character. I 
know as you cannot how it will stimulate the noblest 
things in you, making you wise before your time, and 


giving qualities else not won in many a year. Doubt 
not that you are remembered in the tenderest com- 
munings of my heart, both in its public and its private 

For all the social isolation resulting from Par- 
ker's theological heresies and his anti-slavery zeal, 
he was rich in friends in and beyond his wide 
parochial bounds. In the Twenty-Eighth there 
were older and younger men of fine character and 
large intelligence, with whom his relations were not 
merely parochial but confidential and affectionate 
to an eminent degree. His friendship with Dr. 
Howe survived the shock of the Doctor's with- 
drawal from his parish. From Parker's letters to 
him, and from those to others in which he appears 
and where he always figures as " the Chevalier," 
generally abbreviated to " the Chev.," it would 
appear that no one was more frequently or more 
affectionately in his thoughts. Their common in- 
terest in the Vigilance Committee and the affairs 
of Kansas and John Brown brought them into fre- 
quent and very genuine association. The ortho- 
doxy of Wendell Phillips was no bar to his friend- 
ship with Parker, while their being near neighbors 
made it easier for them to see much of each other. 
Parker admired in Phillips that high-bred air to 
which he could not himself attain. Intellectually 
he could hold his own in the most guarded ring, 
but something of rustic habit clung to him through 
life, and his consciousness of this involved a cer- 
tain shyness and timidity in such aristocratic com- 


panies as flourished in the chilly atmosphere of 
Beacon Hill. That was a strangely inverted meta- 
phor used by Mr. Thomas Appleton to Mrs. Ap- 
thorp when, meeting her on the street, he said to 
her, in view of her persistent attendance upon 
Parker's ministry, " We will make Boston too hot 
for you." Even Sumner and Phillips, to the Bea- 
con Street manner born, were frozen out of the 
society of which they were the brightest ornaments. 
Parker's heresy did not begin to be so distasteful 
to the more highly cultured as his anti-slavery 
speech and action. Such as he had attracted of 
this class soon fell away from him after he began 
to practice what he had preached, until few belong- 
ing to it, besides the Hunts and Apthorps, were 
left. Parker's appreciation of their fidelity and 
courage grappled them to his soul with hooks 
of steel. 

Much as Parker enjoyed having his friends near 
him, some of his warmest friendships flourished 
without the help of physical propinquity. One of 
the rarest of these was that with Samuel J. May. 
We have found Parker counting him among the 
advocates of the new theology, but he was hardly 
one of these. In the anti-slavery business he was 
with Parker heart and soul ; in his theology he 
was much more conservative. He was more liberal 
than Parker, but less radical. Their correspond- 
ence began (as preserved) in 1843, and from that 
time until the last letter (preserved), in 1858, the 
letters count by dozens and by scores on either 


side. Parker's to his " dear Sam Joe " are full of 
merriment, for all the serious purpose with which 
he often wrote. Anti-slavery matters make up the 
bulk of them. Parker is never more persuasive 
than when urging his theological opinions on this 
genial friend. It is in a letter of November 13, 
1846, that I find Parker's formula of democracy 
stated for the first time. Later it approximated 
more nearly to the classic shape given to it by 
Lincoln in his Gettysburg speech : — 

Let the world have peace for five hundred years, the 
aristocracy of blood will have gone, the aristocracy of 
gold will have come and gone, that of talent will also 
have come and gone, and the aristocracy of goodness 
which is the democracy of man, the government of all, 
for all, by all, will be the power that is. 

The last letter of the series is one in which sad 
experience has attained to something of prophetic 
strain. Its date is February 11, 1858. 

Oh! my dear S. J., open thine eyes, look through 
thy spectacles, and thou shalt once more behold the 
elegant chirography of thy long silent friend. A year 
ago yesterday I was in the good town of Syracuse ; 
but Archimedes was not there to welcome me. I had 
passed the night in the inundation at Albany. The 
pleurisy was in my side, the fever in my blood, and I 
have been about good for nothing ever since. I have 
less than half my old joyous power of work, hence I 
have not written to you these three months ! I grind 
out one sermon a week. That is about all I can do. 
... I am forty-seven by the reckoning of my mother ; 
seventy-four in my own (internal) account. I am an 


old man. Sometimes I think of knocking at Earth's 
door with my staff, saying, " Liebe mutter, let me in ! " 
I don't know what is to come of it. 

Another of his closest friendships was with Pro- 
fessor Edward Desor, who came to this country 
from Switzerland and remained here five years. 
He was a naturalist of profound ability. Parker, 
always hungering for knowledge, and reading men 
with more avidity than books, prized Desor highly 
for his scientific acquirements, but more highly for 
his personal qualities, the nobility of his temper 
and the kindness of his heart. Parker wrote on 
Desor's return to Europe : — 

Nothing has ever occurred, in nearly five years of 
acquaintance and four of intimate friendship, to cause 
the least regret. He has always been on the humane 
side, always on the just side. His love of truth, and 
sober industry, his intuitive perception of the relations 
of things, his quick sight for comprehensive generaliza- 
tions, have made me respect him a great deal. His 
character has made me love him very much. There is 
no man I should miss so much of all my acquaintance. 
I count it a privilege to have known him and it will be 
a joy to remember him. 

When Parker went to Europe in 1859, it was 
Desor's privilege to entertain him as hospitably as 
he had himself been entertained by Parker in Bos- 
ton. Probably no circumstance of Parker's later 
life did so much as his friendship with Desor to 
engage his interest in scientific studies. In 1857 
or '58 he preached a course of scientific sermons 


which Miss Stevenson always spoke of as " the 
Darwin sermons," though Darwin's epoch-making 
book had not yet appeared when they were 
preached. But, like Emerson, Parker took kindly 
to the idea of organic evolution as formulated by 
Lamarck and others. 

From first to last the balance of Parker's friend- 
ships tipped to the side of womanhood. It was 
not his choice, and he regretted the preponderance, 
not that he had more of women's friendship than 
he wanted, but because he had less of men's, and 
especially of men's who were his equals or superiors 
in various ways. It was the " ever-womanly " that 
attracted him in women, everything masculine in 
them repelling both his affection and his taste. So, 
on the other hand, it was the manliness of his 
own nature that attracted women. There was no- 
thing sentimental in his regard for them, though of 
blunt affection much, and a daring use of endear- 
ing names and epithets, half playful, wholly simple 
and sincere. The legend of good women whom 
he accounted friends was a long one and included 
many well-known names : Lydia Maria Child, Julia 
Ward Howe, Ednah Dean Cheney, Caroline Healey 
Dall, Elizabeth Peabody, Rebecca and Matilda 
Goddard, the Russells and the Shaws, Caroline C. 
Thayer, Hannah E. Stevenson, Sarah Hunt and 
her sister Eliza — Mrs. Robert E. Apthorp. Par- 
ker's intimacy with Miss Hunt was rarely beauti- 
ful. She was a woman of remarkable character 
and mind and conversational power. She was, 


perhaps, even more helpful to Parker than he was 
to her. She was in a very special manner the 
friend of his family, her frequent, almost daily, 
visits being prized by Mrs. Parker as highly as by 
the man of the house. Given a man of great abil- 
ities and public notoriety, whose wife is not his 
intellectual mate, and there will pretty certainly 
be women who will show their appreciation of him 
by a studied or involuntary neglect of her. If 
some women made this mistake in their relations 
with Parker, there were others who did not, and 
thereby endeared themselves to him the more. In 
1856 the Hunts and Apthorps went abroad, taking 
with them a great piece out of Parker's happiness. 
Their house had been for him a garden of refresh- 
ment in which he was always sure of finding cordial 
welcome, rest for his jaded nerves, stimulus for a 
sluggish brain. For a long time it was his habit 
to go there every Sunday afternoon to engage in 
the translation of Heine, some of his own examples 
proving better than we should expect from him, 
working in such delicate material. When they 
had gone to Europe, hardly a week went by with- 
out a letter to Mrs. Apthorp and another to Miss 
Hunt. They were letters that did homage to his 
friends. 1 They told the news of the parish and 
the town, especially what Mrs. Howe and the 
Chevalier were doing ; they were as frolicsome as 
the antics of a happy child; they reflected the 
political excitements of Buchanan's administration ; 
1 For examples see Weiss, vol. i., pp. 304-311. 


they responded to the letters of his friends with 
learned comments on their studies and their obser- 
vations ; they plunged deep in theological discus- 
sions ; they laid bare the aspirations and the disap- 
pointments of his private heart; they overflowed 
with gratitude for his possession of such dear and 
precious friends. One of them celebrates the glory 
of Emerson in comparison with the other literary 
fellows of the time. Each has his due appreciation, 
but the fame and influence of Emerson would out- 
last them all. I have thought that if I could print 
every one of these letters they would do more than 
all that I have written to reveal Parker's charac- 
ter and mind in their just aspect and proportion. 

One cannot speak of the Hunts and Apthorps 
without thinking of Frances Power Cobbe, whom 
Mrs. Apthorp has known so well and loved so 
much. Her friendship with Parker was so com- 
plete as created by their correspondence that any 
meeting less sacred than that in Florence, when 
Parker was dying, would have seemed a diminution 
of its perfectness. 

There is a nearer view of Parker than any we 
have yet come upon. It is afforded by the self- 
communings and the prayers that are written in 
his journal. It was quite as much commonplace 
book as journal. He did not merit the contempt 
of his neighbor, Wendell Phillips, for men who 
keep a diary, his entries were so infrequent and 
irregular. Weeks and months passed sometimes 
without a personal word. Once, at least, we find 


him resolving to be more regular, but do not find 
that the resolve made much difference in his habit. 
The first volume is a merchant's ledger, or book of 
that kind, very bulky ; the others, some half dozen, 
not so large, but none of them small or thin. If 
Parker himself " never blotted a line " in these 
volumes, others have dealt more critically with 
them ; many passages being erased ; an inky space 
sometimes obliterating a page. But much of the 
erasure was, pretty certainly, his own ; his after- 
thought repenting some impatient utterance or 
transient mood. It would be a mistake to conceive 
that this nearer view of Parker is upon the whole 
the most satisfactory one obtainable. We may get 
too close to a man, as to a mountain, for a com- 
prehensive view. Much that Parker wrote in his 
journal was the casual expression of his cerebral 
or general physical exhaustion. When he was 
miserably tired or sick the world looked dark to 
him, his work unfruitful or ill-done. He worked 
off in his journal the perilous stuff oppressing him, 
where other ministers would have inflicted it upon 
their congregations or their friends. His journal 
was his scapegoat — upon which he packed his 
irritation, melancholy, doubt, and fear, and drove 
it out of his consciousness. 

But it was much more than this. Some of its 
pages breathe the noblest aspirations of his soul, 
the most tender recollections and affections of his 
heart. He was, as we have seen, a man of days 
and feasts, and the ending year, his birthday anni- 


versary, the anniversary of his first leaving home, 
were days that he marked with some white stone of 
remembrance, or with some earnest hope of a more 
useful life. The anniversary of his South Boston 
sermon was another that he seldom let go by with- 
out some sign and seal. The pity was that it must 
needs remind him of his local isolation. More 
than a dozen times it came and went without one 
intermediate sign of friendly invitation for him to 
take part in such a service as that of Mr. Shack- 
ford's ordination. It was when brooding on this 
aspect of his life that he wrote in his journal : — 

I have but one resource, and that is to overcome evil 
with good — much evil with more good ; old evil with 
new good. Sometimes when I receive a fresh insult it 
makes my blood rise for a moment ; then I seek, if 
possible, to do some good, secretly, to the person. It 
takes away the grief of a wound amazingly. 

Early in his Boston ministry he wrote : — 

My chosen walk will be with the humble. I will be 
the minister of the humble, and, with what culture and 
love I have, I will toil for them. I rejoice to see that 
most of my hearers are from the humbler class of men. 
If it had been only the cultivated and the rich, I should 
feel that I was wrong somewhere ; but when the voice 
comes up from the ground, I can't refuse to listen to it. 

Returning to his pulpit after a brief vacation, 
he writes : — 

How delightful it is to begin preaching again ! It 
was so pleasant to see the old familiar faces, and to read 


again to those persons the hymns and psalms I have 
read to them so often, and to pray with them also and 
feel that many a soul prayed with me. 

Nowhere is the essential man revealed more per- 
fectly than in the journal of August 23, 1852, the 
day preceding his forty-second birthday anniver- 

Two and forty years ago, my father, a hale man in 
his one-and-fif tieth year, was looking for the hirth of 
another child before morning, — the eleventh child. 
How strange it is, this life of ours, and this death — the 
second birth. How little does the mother know of the 
babe she bears under her bosom — aye, of the babe she 
nurses at her breast ! Poor dear father, poor dear mo- 
ther ! You little knew how many a man would curse 
the son you painfully brought into life, and painfully 
and religiously brought up. Well, I will bless you — 
true father and most holy mother were you to me : the 
earliest thing you taught me was duty — duty to God, 
duty to man ; that life is not a pleasure, not a pain, but 
a duty. Your words taught me this and your industrious 
lives. What would I give to have added more of glad- 
ness to your life on earth — earnest, toilsome, not with- 
out sorrows ! 

As you look down from heaven, if, indeed, you can 
see your youngest born, there will be much to chide. I 
hope there is something to approve. Dear merciful 
Father, Father God, I would serve Thee and bless man- 
kind ! 

As here, in many other places the tender recollec- 
tion bursts into a flower of prayer. Often we feel 
that we have been admitted to a privacy too sacred 


for a stranger's feet. But the more we read, the 
more we honor and admire and love the man. The 
revelation is that of a man morbidly sensitive to the 
touch of other men's unkindness or ill will, more 
sensitive to any touch of sympathy ; quick to re- 
sent a hurt, but quicker to forgive ; conscious of a 
great work to be done, not easily satisfied with the 
use that he has made of his great powers and 
opportunities ; hampered by a body that might 
have served an idler well enough, but which often 
broke under the strain he put upon it; whole- 
some and sweet in his affections ; enamored with 
the beauty of the world ; serving his conscience 
with indomitable courage and resolve ; with a great 
enthusiasm for humanity and a consciousness of 
God that gave him absolute assurance of the good 
of life and the soul's immortality. 



After the Burns rendition there was no further 
attempt to compel Boston to surrender a fugitive 
slave. The Washington administration gauged the 
temper of the city by the Burns affair and per- 
ceived that it had gone quite far enough upon that 
line. There was, however, little danger that Par- 
ker would find his anti-slavery occupation gone. 
Some months before the Burns affair had run its 
course and reached its hateful end, all the fine 
hopes which some had cherished, of Saturnian days 
returning after the Compromises of 1850, had 
been rudely dashed by the reopening of the whole 
controversy more fundamentally than ever by the 
introduction and passage of the Kansas-Nebraska 
bill, the offspring of Stephen A. Douglas's im- 
moral temper and ingenious mind. The bill re- 
pealing the Missouri Compromise and, opening to 
slavery the territories rescued from it even by that 
base concession was passed in the Senate March 4, 
1854, and a second time, after some insignificant 
changes in the House, the following May (25th). 
The North, drugged by the cup which Clay had 
mixed so skillfully and Webster had commended to 


its lips, was for the most part dull to the significance 
of the new menace to freedom, as if bent on justi- 
fying President Pierce's congratulations in his first 
message, December 5, 1853, on " the repose and 
security in the public mind." Within ten days 
came the first intimations of new trouble, and the 
Kansas-Nebraska bill was introduced January 4, 
1854. No one was quicker than Parker to see 
the meaning of a bill for which Jefferson Davis 
was as hot as Stephen A. Douglas. February 12, 
1854, the title of his sermon was " Some Thoughts 
on the New Assault upon Freedom in America and 
the General State of the Country in Relation there- 
unto." It was a sermon of 20,000 words, and its 
depth was well proportioned to its length. It had 
the large historical framework in which he was 
ever prone to set the immediate lesson for the day. 
Coming to closer quarters with this lesson, he 
named two victories of freedom over slavery in 
seventy-eight years, the ordinance of 1787 and the 
abolition of the slave trade in 1808, and nine vic- 
tories of slavery over freedom. The ninth was 
the Compromise of 1850 ; the Nebraska bill, if 
carried, would be the tenth. He predicted that 
the eleventh would be — just exactly what it 
proved to be in the Dred Scott decision, three 
years later, in the first month of Buchanan's ad- 
ministration. The sermon was an armory of facts 
of which his friends at Washington availed them- 
selves for their congressional speeches, but it had 
its passages of fervid eloquence, as where he said 
nearing the conclusion : — 


Well, let us contend bravely against this wicked de- 
vice of men who are the enemies alike of America and 
mankind. I call on all men who love man and love 
God, to oppose this extension of slavery. Talk against 
it, preach against it — by all means act against it. Call 
meetings of the towns to oppose it, of the Congressional 
districts, of the State, yea, of all the free States. Make 
a fire in the rear of your timid servants in Congress. 
Let us fight manfully, contesting the ground inch by 
inch, till at last we are driven back to the Rock of 
Plymouth. There let us gather up the wreck of the old 
ship which brought over the three churches of Plymouth, 
Salem, Boston, — whose children have so often proved 
false, — therewith let us build anew our Mayflower, 
make Plymouth our Delft-haven, launch again upon the 
sea, sailing to Greenland or to Africa, by prayer to lay 
other deep foundations, and in the wilderness to build 
up the glorious liberty of the sons of God. 

Even those who do not agree with Emerson, 
that Shakespeare sometimes " premeditated bom- 
bast," may think that we have here the defect of 
that particular quality. But Parker was so down- 
right earnest and sincere that his most turgid rhet- 
oric was transfigured by his moral passion into 
something very different from what it might have 
been, proceeding from a man less perfectly con- 
vinced and less profoundly stirred. 

The Bill had not yet reached its final passage 
when, May 12, 1854, he gave an address in New 
York before the Anti-Slavery Society of that city. 
Its subject was the Nebraska bill, and there could 
be no better witness to the fullness of his mind as 


applied to the slavery question than a comparison 
of this speech with that given in Boston to an anti- 
slavery convention a few days later (May 31st). 1 
The two speeches have intersecting lines, but are 
remarkably unlike. The statistics in the second 
speech are massed so heavily that those in the first, 
compared with them, are but an awkward squad. 

In this speech occurs a variant of Lincoln's 
famous " government of the people, by the people, 
for the people." It is interesting that, as in a 
speech of 1850, it is imbedded in a passage which 
might have been the inspiration of Seward's "irre- 
pressible conflict " and Lincoln's " house divided 
against itself," a view to which Parker continu- 
ally recurred, estimating the chances of victory 
when the crash should come. I do not find Par- 
ker's formula, anywhere, exactly corresponding 
with Lincoln's. In " Thoughts on America " and 
" The Slave Power in America " it is, " Govern- 
ment of all the people, by all the people, for all 
the people." It was Miss Stevenson's opinion 
that its final form with Parker was exactly Lin- 
coln's — and so repeated frequently in sermon, 
speech, and prayer. Lincoln's law partner, Hern- 
don, who knew Parker well and had much corre- 
spondence with him, came on to Boston after the 
Douglas-Lincoln debate and saw Parker and other 
anti-slavery men, with an eye to Lincoln's political 
prospects. Going back to Springfield, he took 

1 " Some Thoughts on the Progress of America and the Influence 
of her Diverse Institutions." 


some of Parker's new sermons and addresses. " One 
of these," he says, " was a lecture on ' The Effect 
of Slavery on the American People,' which was 
delivered in the Music Hall, Boston, and which I 
gave to Lincoln, who read it and returned it. He 
liked especially the following expression, which he 
marked with a pencil, and which he in substance 
afterwards used in his Gettysburg address : ' De- 
mocracy is direct self-government, over all the 
people, by all the people, for all the people.' " The 
address referred to was delivered July 4, 1858, and 
was Parker's last great anti-slavery address. The 
words, exactly as quoted by Herndon, will be 
found on page 138 of volume viii. of Miss Cobbe's 
edition of Parker's works. The volume bears the 
title "Miscellaneous Discourses." 

A sermon of June 4, 1854, two days after the 
return of Burns to slavery, was called " The New 
Crime against Humanity." It was at once a re- 
view of the Burns case and of the Nebraska legis- 
lation which had reached its climax a few days 
before, with a preliminary indictment of Commis- 
sioner Loring as the murderer of the man killed 
at the attempted rescue which so miserably miscar- 
ried. One must read this sermon in its entirety 
and also that of July 4, 1854, "Dangers which 
threaten the Rights of Man in America," to appre- 
ciate fully the strength and fervor of Parker's 
anti-slavery preaching at this stage of the great 
controversy. In the latter sermon he fully elabo- 
rates his three possibilities : The Union may be 


dissolved ; Slavery may destroy Freedom ; Freedom 
may destroy Slavery. The first he set aside, though 
he did not expect the territory of the United States, 
as it was in his time, to always remain one nation. 1 
Of the second possibility the omens were thicker 
than the leaves of Vallombrosa. " Ten years more 
like the ten past, and it will be all over with the 
liberties of America." He counted the acts of a 
new political tragedy: the acquisition of St. Do- 
mingo and Hayti, next of Cuba, the rights of sla- 
very conceded in the Free States (Dred Scott 
decision) ; restoration of slave-trade ; a new quar- 
rel with Mexico to get more of her territory for 
slavery. Nevertheless, he expected his third possi- 
bility to become actual. Remembering the fifty 
thousand faces he had looked into on his last round 
of lectures, he plucked up his drowning courage 
by the locks : — 

When the North stands up manfully, united, we can 
tear down Slavery in a twelvemonth ; and when we do 
unite, it must not be only to destroy Slavery in the ter- 
ritories but to uproot every weed of Slavery throughout 
this whole wide land. Then leanness will depart from 
our souls ; then the blessing of God will come upon us ; 
we shall have a Commonwealth based on righteousness 
which is the strength of any people, and shall stand 
longer than Egypt, — national fidelity to God our age- 
outlasting pyramid ! 

The practical outcome of Douglas's " squatter 
sovereignty" was what every one should have an- 

1 Works, vol. vi., p. 138. See Bryee's American Commonwealth, 
second ed., vol. ii., p. 521. 


ticipated — a desperate struggle for the soil of 
Kansas by the slaveholders on the one hand and 
the free-state men on the other. The tragic story 
has been often told, and I need not repeat it here. 
Parker's anti-slavery friends were all deeply en- 
gaged in the endeavor to secure preponderance for 
freedom, and he was not behind the foremost of 
them in his practical efficiency. He was deeply 
interested in the New England Emigrant Aid So- 
ciety and closely affiliated with the Massachusetts 
Kansas Committee. His voice and purse and pen 
were at the service of every enterprise that pro- 
mised well for the good cause. The state com- 
mittee of which he was an active member raised 
nearly $ 100,000 in 1856 in money and supplies. 
The supplies included $20,000 worth of arms and 
ammunition, the arms those which some of the 
humorous called " Beecher's Bibles," and Parker 
" Sharp's Eights of the People." We find him 
going to the trains to see the emigrants starting 
for Kansas. Higginson followed them and Parker 
ached to follow him, writing the Apthorps, " But 
for your visit to Europe I should have spent my 
vacation in Kansas. Next summer will probably 
find me there." The whole course of the struggle 
could be recovered from his sermons and letters 
if all the other records of it should be lost. The 
lines on which he was cooperating with Stearns 
and Howe and Sanborn are indicated in a letter 
from Stearns to a New York Committee, May 17, 
1857 : A grant (unrealized) of $100,000 from the 


Massachusetts legislature ; the organization of a 
secret force, strictly defensive, well armed, under 
the control of " the famous John Brown," more 
famous now than then; donations of money to 
those parties of settlers in Kansas whose vicissitudes 
had disabled them. Meantime the preaching and 
speech-making went on, answering to each latest 
exigency of the political situation, as "bleeding 
Kansas " drew her wounded length along the in- 
tolerable years. Very characteristic was such a 
sermon as that of November 26, 1854, on " The 
Consequences of an Immoral Principle and False 
Idea of Life." The immoral principle was that 
there is no " higher law " than the statute, however 
wicked, which politicians make. The false idea 
of life was that the amassing and protection of 
property is the main concern of individuals and 
states. Here, as in many other sermons and ad- 
dresses, he amplifies the degrading influence of 
slavery upon business, education, the press, and 
the pulpit. 

A tremendous day's work was that of May 7, 
1856, just on the eve of such momentous things 
as Sumner's Kansas speech, followed by Brooks's 
assault, the looting of Lawrence, Kan., by the 
border ruffians, and John Brown's terrible repris- 
als on the Pottawatomie. On that day Parker 
made two speeches before the American Anti- 
Slavery Society in New York. That in the morn- 
ing, " The Present Aspect of the Anti - Slavery 
Enterprise, and of the Various Forces which work 


therein," was a capital illustration of Parker's rela- 
tion to the Garrisonians, on whose platform he was 
speaking. This was a relation of the utmost frank- 
ness and sincerity. He praised their persistency, 
their unselfishness, their devotion to absolute right. 
He called them " the anti-slavery party proper." 
But they forgot, he said, that there must be politi- 
cal workmen, and they did not do justice to those 
who in their responsible public stations had not the 
freedom of thought and action enjoyed by Garrison 
and Phillips. In this speech, as in many others, 
Parker contended that one of the essential things 
was to " arouse a sense of indignation " in the slave ; 
to " urge him, of himself, to put a stop to bearing 
the wickedness." He did not fear the charge that 
he was instigating colored insurrection. Could he 
have done so, he would have initiated it in every 
Southern State, heartily believing that 

Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow. 

The speech of the evening was a great statistical 
speech of fifteen thousand words on " The Present 
Crisis in American Affairs." It contemplated as 
possible the election of an anti-slavery president 
the following November, with no consequent seces- 
sion of the South. Parker's prophetic soul was 
never equal to a full appreciation of the reality of 
Southern threats of secession. He expected tempo- 
rary disunion rather as the result of Northern re- 
sistance to Southern aggression than as the result 
of Southern resistance to the Northern restriction 


of slavery. He was only confident that there would 
be a great collision and that the party of freedom 
would be victorious. 

Parker's correspondence with the political anti- 
slavery leaders and statesmen of his time is an 
impressive testimony to his political importance. 
This correspondence as exhibited by Weiss was 
formidable in its amount, but it would be hardly 
an exaggeration to say that in the manuscript col- 
lections there are dozens and scores of letters to 
Seward and Chase and Hale and Sumner for every 
one preserved by Weiss, with many more to Ban- 
croft, Horace Mann, and Charles Francis Adams and 
others than are given in the Weiss biography. 
And, what is quite as important, we have in the 
manuscript collections the answers made to Parker's 
letters, and these are highly significant of the value 
which his correspondents set upon his opinions. 
Without these answers we might have imagined 
that Parker was super - serviceable, and that the 
criticisms and demands he made were frequently 
resented. There was in fact, sometimes, the 
frankest disavowal of the imputed fault, Bancroft 
writing once, " You are wrong in almost every 
point," and Wilson standing up manfully for his 
tribute to a slaveholding senator, William Wirt, as 
the best man he had met in Washington. Seward 
was anxious to impress on Parker the difficulties 
attending the embodiment of political ideals in 
practical legislation. He turned to Parker his best 
side, the side he turned to Mrs. Seward, his invalid 


wife, the courage of whose convictions was a need- 
ful antidote to the baleful influence of Thurlow 
Weed. Sumner's correspondence with her, which 
he highly valued, was one of perfect mutual sym- 
pathy on anti-slavery lines. The fears of Seward's 
radicalism, which cost him the nomination in 1860, 
would have been more agitating had it been known 
that in 1858 he wrote to Parker : — 

You have discovered clearly that the negative anti- 
slavery policy of the time is soon to cease, because it has 
practically effected all that it can, and that a positive 
action directed towards the removal of slavery from the 
country is to be effected. 

More than once Seward expresses his thanks 
for material in Parker's speeches, sermons and 
addresses of which he proposes to make use in his 
own speeches. 

Parker's admiration for Chase was very great, 
and his approval of his course was general if not 
uniform. Next to Seward he was his candidate 
for the presidency in 1860. But he was always 
quick to resent the characteristic Republican idea 
of the sacredness of slavery in the States. To 
Banks, from whom he never expected much, he 
wrote : — 

I think that Mr. Chase has made a fatal error in de- 
claring that Slavery in the States is sacred ; it is hos- 
tile to the fundamental idea of the movement. Sumner 
has also erred in his watchword, Freedom national and 
Slavery sectional. I recognize the finality of no sec- 
tional Slavery even. 


Parker's estimate of Horace Mann was that he 
was one of the three greatest helpers of the time ; 
Emerson and Garrison the others. He corre- 
sponded much with Mann on educational matters, 
in which his interest was profound. Once we find 
him trying to make peace between Mann and Phil- 
lips, who had criticised Mann with his customary- 
severity. Mann wrote to Parker, " What a good 
man you are. I am sure nobody would be damned 
if you were at the head of the Universe." " But," 
he continued, " I will never treat a man with re- 
spect whom I do not respect, be the consequences 
what they may, so help me — Horace Mann ! " 

To Wilson, as to Sumner, on his arrival at sen- 
atorial dignity, Parker wrote a letter of generous 
and lofty expectation, not without some drastic 
comments upon his political career. For example : 
" You have been seeking for office with all your 
might." One of the criticisms was on Wilson's 
active participation in the Native American move- 
ment, with which Parker had no sympathy. Wil- 
son confesses to a daring and successful political 
manoeuvre for the capturing of the Native Ameri- 
cans for Republican uses. He thanked Parker for 
his frankness, and said that he had kept the let- 
ter, " for warning and rebuke, and for instruction 
in righteousness : " the words to that effect. 

The letters to and from John P. Hale are very 
numerous, the more so because Hale was one of 
Parker's counsel in the " trial for misdemeanor." 
A slightly garbled one of Parker's was printed in 


facsimile in the Weiss volumes. The omission is 
from a description of Stephen A. Douglas, whom 
he had just seen and heard in Illinois. The omitted 
words are here given in italics : " He was consid- 
erably drunk and made one of the most sophistical 
and deceitful speeches I ever listened to." The 
date of this letter was only a fortnight in advance 
of Fremont's defeat and Buchanan's election. It 
said : — 

If Buchanan is President I think the Union does not 
hold out his four years. It must end in civil war, which 
I have been preparing for these six months past. I buy 
no books, except for pressing need. Last year I bought 
$1500 worth. This year I shall not order $200 worth. 
I may want the money for cannons. 

The correspondence with Sumner is fuller than 
that with any of the other anti-slavery leaders. It 
began with Parker's letter of enthusiastic approval 
of Sumner's " True Grandeur of Nations " in 1845. 
It ended a few months before Parker's death. Of 
the letter which Parker wrote Sumner at the time 
of his election to the Senate, Colonel Higginson 
has written, " I think Plutarch's 4 Lives ' can show 
nothing more simple and noble than this counsel." 
It is an impiety to abridge it, but I can give only a 
few sentences : — 

You told me once that you were in Morals, not in Poli- 
tics. Now I hope you will show that you are still in 
Morals although in Politics. I hope you will be the 
Senator with a conscience. ... I consider that Massa- 
chusetts has put you where you have no right to consult 


for the ease or the reputation of yourself ; hut for the 
eternal Right. All of our statesmen "build on the opin- 
ion of to-day a house that is admired to-morrow, and 
the next day to he torn down with hooting. I hope 
you will huild on the Rock of Ages and look to Eter- 
nity for your justification. . . . You see I try you by a 
difficult standard and that I am not easily pleased. I 
hope some years hence to say, you have done better 
than I advised ! 

That Parker could take this lofty tone with a 
man so proud-spirited and sensitive as Sumner and 
be not ungraciously received is significant of the 
weighty estimation in which he was held, as was 
the sum of his relations with the political anti- 
slavery leaders. When, after many months in 
the Senate, Sumner remained silent, Parker be- 
came alarmed and considered him "in imminent 
deadly peril," so writing Dr. Howe. But when in 
August, 1852, Sumner found his voice, and made 
his first great anti-slavery speech in the Senate, 
Parker did not stint the measure of his approba- 
tion. A common love of books and theological 
sympathies strengthened the anti- slavery bond. 
When, in May, 1856, Sumner made the speech 
which provoked Brooks's murderous assault, Parker 
wrote him the next day (21st), "God bless you 
for the brave words you spoke and have always 
spoken." But when this letter reached Washing- 
ton the assault of the 2 2d had taken place and 
Sumner's life hung in the balance. Parker wrote 
to Hale begging to know the worst, and wishing he 


might have taken the blows on his own head, " at 
least half of them" The indignation meeting at 
Faneuil Hall, on May 24th, did not satisfy Parker's 
sense of what the time required. Even though on 
indignation bent the politicians had a frugal mind. 
They would not permit Phillips to be heard. The 
next morning Parker's sermon at the Music Hall 
made up what was lacking. Had the news ar- 
rived of the latest doings in Kansas he might have 
dipped his pen in blacker ink. As it was, it had 
no rosy hue. 1 

The name of Abraham Lincoln does not appear 
upon the list of Parker's political correspondents. 
This would be stranger if Parker had not had in 
Herndon a mediator through whom he could ex- 
press his approval of Lincoln's course from time 
to time ; at other times his doubts. Apparently 
they never met, though Parker lectured in Spring- 
field, October 24, 1856 ; but Lincoln was then 
in the thick of the Fremont campaign, in which 
he made fifty speeches, and on that night he may 
have been a hundred miles away. It was just 
about this time that he had his first memorable 
tussle with Douglas, giving him a foretaste of the 
quality of the antagonist he would meet in the long 
debate of 1858. Lincoln was well acquainted with 
Parker's political and theological writings, and 
took great delight in them. In the latter he found 
an elaborate expression of his own theological 

1 He kept a scrap-book, into which he pasted everything relat- 
ing to the assault on Sumner. 


opinions and a foreshadowing of that Church of 
Love to God and Man, having no longer creed, 
which he declared that he should like to join. 
Parker took the liveliest interest in the Lincoln- 
Douglas debate of 1858 and wrote Herndon fre- 
quently about it. August 28th: "I look with 
great interest on the contest in your state and read 
the speeches, the noble speeches, of Mr. Lincoln 
with enthusiasm." In the same letter he charac- 
terizes Douglas as "a mad dog barking at the 
wolf that has torn our sheep, but more danger- 
ous than the wolf." " I never recommended the 
Republicans," he says, " to take Douglas into their 
family." For Greeley's schemes, looking to this 
adoption, he had no respect, and Weiss's omis- 
sions in Parker's political letters of this period are 
generally significant of criticisms upon Greeley's 
incapacity for leadership. He is characterized as 
" capricious, crotchety, full of whims," honest and 
humane, "but pitiably weak." The letter ends, 
" I think the Republican party will nominate Sew- 
ard for the Presidency and elect him in 1860. 
Then the wedge is entered and will be driven 
home." When it is remembered that Seward was 
set aside as being more radical than Lincoln, it 
cannot be doubted that Parker would have been 
much disappointed by Lincoln's nomination. It 
is easy to be wiser now, with Seward's record for 
the winter of 1860-61 in full view. Writing Sep- 
tember 9, 1858, Parker has no doubt that Douglas 
will be beaten. But in the Ottawa meeting of 


that year he thought Douglas had the best of it ; 
that Lincoln evaded his questions, which went to 
the heart of the matter. " That is not the way to 
fight the battle of Freedom." Such is the irony 
of history that it was things like this which he 
deplored that secured Lincoln's nomination, and 
through that the integrity of the Union and the 
emancipation of the slave. 

The transition from Lincoln to John Brown is 
not illogical : they pursued the same ends in life, 
and in the manner of their death they were not 
much divided. Parker was well acquainted with 
Brown's doings in Kansas in a general way, and 
had great confidence in him. He did not know 
how intimately he was concerned in the "Potta- 
watomie Executions." Had he, the knowledge 
would not have staggered him. Brown had heard 
him preach in 1853, or earlier, and admired his 
piety and morality, while severely disapproving his 
theology. Their first meeting, probably, was in 
January, 1857, at the Music Hall. Three months 
later, when Brown was hiding in Boston from his 
pursuers, Parker wrote to Judge Russell, who was 
secreting Brown : " If I were in his position I should 
shoot dead any man who attempted to arrest me for 
those alleged crimes ; then I should be tried by a 
Massachusetts jury and be acquitted. P. S. — I 
don't advise J. B. to do this, but it is what I should 

Parker was one of the first to hear and care- 
fully attend to John Brown's Virginia plans, not 


as changed suddenly and fatally at the last, 1 hut as 
intending the introduction of a hody of armed men 
into the Virginia mountains, with a view to gather- 
ing together slaves in large numbers — there to 
defend themselves or take the underground rail- 
road for Canada. September 11, 1857, Brown 
wrote him that he was " in immediate want of five 
hundred or one thousand dollars for secret service, 
and no questions asked." A little later, on his 
arrival in Kansas, he disclosed his plans in a gen- 
eral way to some of those who shared his desperate 
venture at the last. A start was soon made, Brown 
economizing at Tabor, Iowa, two hundred rifles 
with other stores that had got so far towards 
Kansas, sent by the Massachusetts Kansas Com- 
mittee. The idea was to spend the winter of 
1857-58 in Ohio under the military instruction 
of one Hugh Forbes, a Garibaldian soldier and 
impecunious adventurer in whom Brown had in- 
continently put his trust. He proved a traitor, 
or, at least, threatened so violently to divulge 
Brown's plans unless his own pecuniary and other 
demands were met, that they were postponed for a 
year and more. It was by means of Forbes's let- 
ters that the John Brown secret committee of six 
members, Theodore Parker, Frank B. Sanborn, 
Dr. S. G. Howe, George L. Stearns, Thomas Went- 
worth Higginson, and Gerrit Smith, were first in- 

1 Apparently ; though there are intimations that he privately 
entertained the Harper's Ferry incident for some time in ad- 
vance, and dropped a word about it here and there. 


formed of the nature of Brown's " secret service." 
It was from no doubt of its character, but as fear- 
ing that Forbes's betrayal would make its success 
impossible, that the business was postponed. The 
members of the committee were much divided 
among themselves. Before this critical juncture 
— February 22, 1858 — Sanborn had met John 
Brown at Gerrit Smith's in Peterboro', N. Y., and 
"in the long winter evening the whole outline 
of Brown's campaign in Virginia 2 was laid before 
our little council, 2 to the astonishment and almost 
the dismay of those present." Brown's arguments 
were convincing of the soundness of his plans, or, 
at least, that he must not be allowed to execute 
them without such aid as might assure their pos- 
sible success. Sanborn went back to Boston with 
Smith's generous promises of financial aid and saw 
Parker and Higginson at once. At Parker's sug- 
gestion Brown was invited to Boston on a secret 
visit. He came and stayed four days. He suc- 
ceeded in interesting Parker deeply in his plans, 
not in convincing him that they were likely to 
succeed, as Brown imagined. But Parker believed 
that even if they failed they must do good by pre- 
cipitating the contest which must surely come, 
while every year's delay made likelier a fatal issue, 
or one purchased for freedom at a more fearful 
cost. At the end of April letters came from 

1 Less the attack on Harper's Ferry. 

2 Sanborn, Smith, and Edwin Morton, of Plymouth, Mass., a 
classmate of Sanborn at Harvard. 


Forbes, threatening to divulge everything unless 
Brown were dismissed from the chief command 
and himself put in his place. Parker, Smith, 
Stearns, and Sanborn were reluctantly convinced 
that action must be postponed, but not Howe and 
Higginson, who thought Forbes could be out- 
witted. The majority prevailed, and Brown, sick 
at heart, was constrained to go back to Kansas, 
where he did good service, making a foray into 
Missouri and carrying off eleven slaves to Canada, 
with an infant born upon the way. It was under- 
stood that he would wait a year and then strike 
when and where he should think best, without 
needless warning to his friends. Their case was 
that of Governor Andrew, who declared, " What- 
ever might be thought of John Brown's acts, John 
Brown himself was right" The man was so con- 
vincing in his earnestness and consecration, and 
could so invest his daring project with an atmo- 
sphere of intellectual sobriety, that they had no 
doubt he would make good use of the arms and 
money put into his hands. And Parker was never 
one of those who thought that he did not. 

But so it happened that, for several months be- 
fore Parker's final leave of Boston, he saw nothing 
and heard little of the wonderful old man in whose 
hatred of slavery he had found, as almost nowhere 
else, a passion equal to his own. When Parker 
sailed for the West Indies in February, 1859, John 
Brown had just crossed the Kansas border on his 
way to Canada with his eleven slaves, but Parker 


knew little of his doings thenceforth until all the 
world was taken into his secret in the fall of 1859. 
The years corresponding to Parker's anti-sla very- 
activity from the time of the Burns rendition on- 
ward to the end of his Boston ministry saw no 
abatement of his interest in theological matters nor 
in his average pulpit work and pastoral care. From 
the two or three hundred invitations 1 to lecture 
which he received every year he accepted, with a 
few exceptions, such as would permit his return to 
his Music Hall congregation every Sunday morning. 
The printed sermons of these years (1854-58) 
give the impression that his preaching was mainly 
controversial and political, but it was not actu- 
ally so. A truer story is that told by the volume 
of fragmentary selections — " Lessons from the 
World of Matter and the World of Man." From 
these we gather that his preaching, for the most 
part, was moral and religious in a simple, homely 
way, with much of picture and parable, to which 
he had an insuperable proclivity. There was al- 
ways the same abundant knowledge of all kinds, 
serving him for argument and illustration ; much 
looseness of arrangement and redundancy of mat- 
ter ; many lapses of taste, with here and there a 
lapse of memory, or too eager snatching at such 

1 One of these, and one only, was from a slave State, Delaware, 
where his lecture at Wilmington was a comparison of free labor 
and slave labor, as illustrated by the two smallest States in the 
Union, Delaware and Rhode Island. There were threats of rough 
usage, but Parker's courage and his sympathy with the poor slave- 
holders' economical failure carried him safely through. 


rumors as were favorable to his preconceived opin- 
ions. Those who sometimes wearied of the theo- 
logical reiteration and the political denunciation 
took comfort from such sermons as that upon Old 
Age and that of July 15, 1855, "Beauty in the 
"World of Matter considered as a Revelation of 
God." He was midway of " a series of discourses, 
treating in an abstract and metaphysical way cer- 
tain great matters," when, the weather becoming 
very hot, he determined to substitute for one of 
the series the sermon named. It was as if the abun- 
dance of the summer had produced a new variety 
of sumptuous flower. One must go farther than 
Whitman, even to Richard Jefferies' " Pageant of 
Summer," for such a burst of joy in natural things, 
such midsummer madness of delight in the fair 
things of the earth. Much was remembered from 
his Lexington boyhood ; much more is evidence 
how close this man of many books and cares still 
held his ear to Nature's beating heart. 

As if his regular preaching and lecturing and 
anti-slavery work were not enough, in 1856 he 
assumed the charge of an independent society in 
Watertown, generally preaching there in the after- 
noon the sermon he had preached in the morning, 
for such service holding that the laborer was worthy 
of his horse-hire and no more. This arrangement 
continued for a year. Another opportunity much 
prized was that offered him by the Progressive 
Friends of Longwood, Chester County, Pa., a 
group of people remarkable for their reformatory 


sympathies and their intellectual freedom. Parker 
went to them, as to an Earthly Paradise, in 1855, 
and again in 1858, preaching twice on the first visit 
and four times on the second. His first sermon 
in 1855, " Relation between Ecclesiastical Insti- 
tutions and Religious Consciousness " (I find the 
title in this form on a copy which he prepared for 
publication), was preached May 19, the fourteenth 
anniversary of his South Boston sermon, to which 
he referred, saying that since then he had received 
no invitation to take part in any ordination or 
dedication service till now, when the Progressive 
Friends had invited him to the dedication of their 
meeting-house. The sermon was a powerful one 
as an indictment of the popular theology, but infi- 
nitely less precious than that of the next day, " Of 
the Delights of Piety," one of the most glowing 
psalms that Parker ever wrote. One of the ser- 
mons that he preached on his second visit, " The 
Soul's Normal Delight in the Infinite God," is 
another rendering of the same lofty theme. It is 
a lovely series of pictures, but has not the rushing 
spontaneity of the earlier discourse, though it con- 
tains some of the most tender reminiscences of his 
early life. It is, however, one of the sermons that 
must be consulted by any one wishing to become 
acquainted with the higher ranges of Parker's pul- 
pit thought. In May, 1858, Parker's work was so 
nearly done that these sermons ought to represent 
the climax of his powers, but the first, " The Pro- 
gressive Development of the Conception of God in 


the Books of the Bible," suggests that his mind was 
already suffering from the depletion of his physi- 
cal strength. It is below the level of his know- 
ledge of Old Testament studies, while at the same 
time it indicates what a transposition of values there 
has been since Parker's time. In another of the 
sermons he indicts the ecclesiastical conception of 
God for high crimes and misdemeanors, and an- 
other, the third in their order of delivery, expounds 
" The Philosophical Idea of God and its Relation to 
the Scientific and Religious Wants of Man now." 
This is one of the loftiest expressions of the faith 
that was in him. By " philosophical " in his title 
he means " rational ; " so generally. We have in 
this sermon one of those obiter dicta in which Par- 
ker qualified the severity of his formal expositions 
with a wisdom milder than their own. He does 
not think metaphysicians 

have much intuitive power to perceive religious truths 
directly, by the primal human instinct, nor do I think 
that they in the wisest way observe the innermost activ- 
ities of the human soul. Poets like Shakespeare observe 
the play of human passion better than metaphysicians 
like Berkeley and Hume, better than moralists like But- 
ler and Paley. Commonly, I think, men and women 
of simple religious feeling furnish the facts which men 
of great thoughtful genius work up into philosophic 

There was good self-criticism here. All of Par- 
ker's metaphysics was an attempt to justify the 
simple religious feeling of his inborn humanity. 


The financial crash of 1857 and the subsequent 
depression gave the revivalists of the country such 
an opportunity as they had not had for many years 
to play upon the religious sensibilities of the com- 
munity. There was great religious excitement in 
Boston as elsewhere, on which Parker made such 
comment as the manner and incidents of the revi- 
val seemed to require — the first, in a sermon of 
February 14, 1858, " False and True Theology," 
which anticipated the two Longwood sermons on 
the ecclesiastical and philosophical ideas of God 
and their appropriate effects. Another stick of 
fuel on the fire of evangelical indignation flaming 
out at Parker in the Boston churches was hardly 
needed to make it seven times hot, but, if it was, 
this sermon would seem to have furnished it. Clear 
and strong it rang out the preacher's confidence in 
" the adequacy of man for all his functions," the 
religious equally with the physical, intellectual, 
affectional, and moral. It was not these glowing 
affirmations that excited the wrath of the tradition- 
alists, but the preacher's stern and awful strictures 
on their thoughts and ways. He was made an 
object of concentric prayer. Men prayed that his 
people might leave him and come to them ; that 
confusion and distraction might enter his study and 
prevent him from writing the sermon, " which was 
already finished," says Parker ; that God would put 
" a hook in this man's jaws so that he would not 
be able to speak ; " that God would " remove him 
out of the way and let his influence die with him." 


After his death it was boasted that this prayer had 
been answered unmistakably by the fortunate event. 
It is not to be believed that such things expressed 
the average temper of the orthodox churches, and 
Parker's passing allusion to them was perhaps more 
than they deserved. Both timely and appropriate, 
however, were two sermons of April 4th and 11th, 
"A False and True Kevival of Religion " and " The 
Revival of Religion which we Need," the former 
stern in its constructions, and the latter warm with 
many a breath of sweet humanity. Even so ample 
an admirer of Parker as Colonel Higginson has sug- 
gested that Parker's representations of the revival 
theology were too severe. I could more readily 
agree with him, if, during the revival, I had not 
heard sermons preached which argued the inde- 
structibility of the sinner's body in a furnace of 
eternal fire. Parker was a Democrat in his the- 
ology. He did not care so much what orthodox 
scholars were writing in " the quiet and still air of 
delightful studies " as what their creeds avowed 
and what the common people heard and possibly 

The revival did not distract him from the most 
obvious of those duties which a true revival would, 
he thought, enforce upon the public mind — that 
to the nation in its perilous hour. It was a sign 
of the times that he could address the Anti-Slavery 
Convention in the State House in January, 1858. 
His address ended on a jarring note, with one of 
his most tasteless parables. Not so that of July 


4th, his last great utterance on slavery to his own 
congregation and to the world beyond its bounds. 
This was the address which Herndon carried back 
to Lincoln and which Lincoln read and marked. 
It ended with a conditional prophecy — that, if the 
people of America were faithful, the hundredth 
anniversary of the nation's birthday would find no- 
where, in all the land, a slave. The fact outran 
his prophecy eleven years. 



Writing of the embodied saints, Colonel Hig- 
ginson had put Parker among them as an able- 
bodied man, and in March, 1858, Parker wrote 
him, accepting gratefully the praise as formerly his 
due, though he was 

not now that strength which in old days 
Moved earth and heaven. 

Do you know I could once carry a barrel of cider in 
my hands ? I don't mean a glass at a time, — I could 
do that now, — but a barrel at a time. I have worked 
(not often, though) at farming twenty hours out of the 
twenty-four for several days together, when I was eigh- 
teen or twenty. I have often worked from twelve to 
seventeen hours a day in my study for a considerable 
period ; and could do that now. 

But with his great original strength and capa- 
city for endurance there went the ailing habit of a 
constitution fundamentally threatened and weak- 
ened by the pulmonary disease that was heredi- 
tary in his family. Of his ten brothers and sisters 
eight had died of consumption, while the oldest 
brother, Isaac, had gone on to sixty in good health. 
It was Parker's hope, if he could pass the fifty 


years stake, which only Isaac had reached, that he 
might sail on securely to the haven of a serene old 
age. But for certain accidents and much over- 
work, this might have been his course. He had 
been strictly temperate in food and drink, he had 
with much self-denial rescued from each day a fair 
portion of sleep, he had been a good walker, and 
his hardest work did not wear upon him so much 
as compulsory idleness. But the journals and the 
letters tell of many miserable days. It will be re- 
membered that when in Europe he had an aching 
head and side, and brought these doubtful trophies 
home. In 1846 he writes Miss Stevenson, " So 
long as I can stand upright, I do well : the mo- 
ment I resolve to lean a little I go plumb down, 
for there is nothing for me to lean upon." He 
thinks he " does n't need rest so much as fun." 
In 1849 we find him constructing a health gauge. 
When he can write the next Sunday's sermon on 
Monday morning he is at the top of his condi- 
tion, marked A. But he runs down as low as F, 
and lower — " an approach to O for this season of 
the year." On his forty-third birthday, 1853, he 
writes that he has had admonitions that he is not 
to be an old man. He walks and works " with a 
will," not with " the spontaneous impulse that once 
required the will to check it." 

There was no serious break, however, until April, 
1856, when, lecturing in New Bedford, sight, hear- 
ing, and speech gave out. But he went to an 
apothecary's near by and came back after drinking 


a bit of sherry and finished his lecture with great 
difficulty. " / take this as a warning, — not the 
first," he wrote. In the spring of 1857 he was 
miserably sick, and in July wrote an account of his 
sickness to W. H. Fish : In February he went to 
central New York to lecture. At East Albany 
there was an inundation and the train was left 
standing in it all night, and Parker got no dinner 
or supper, or breakfast the next morning except a 
tough bite in an Irish shanty. He woke with a 
sharp pain in his right side, not known before. 
He got to Syracuse that night and lectured there, 
took the night train for Rochester, and, arriving 
there in the early morning, was given a bed with 
damp sheets, whence the chills of an incipient 
fever the next day. Lectured in the evening and 
at Albany the next ; got back to Boston Saturday 
and preached at Music Hall Sunday morning, and 
at Watertown in the afternoon. Was sick the 
next week, but lectured four times ; so the next 
and next ; then broke down utterly and was con- 
fined to the house for some weeks. As soon as he 
could stand on his feet an hour he began to preach 
again. This, he said, was a means of cure; it 
helped him so much to look once more into the 
faces of his people. His side kept up its ache, and 
there was an effusion of water on the chest that 
had barely subsided when the year 1858 brought 
its conflict with the Boston revivalists, with the 
pleasant alternation of his second visit to the Pro- 
gressive Friends in Pennsylvania. After his last 


At the age of 48 


anti-slavery sermon, July 4, with Salmon P. Chase 
for its best listener, the summer vacation began, 
and a new friend, Mr. Joseph Lyman, to whom 
he became very much attached, and whom Miss 
Stevenson called " the lover," took him on a drive 
of seven hundred miles in a fine new wagon. 
Parker's eyes were open to all the natural beau- 
ties of the regions through which they drove and 
to all the economical conditions : — 

But we did see such neatness, thrift, comfort, and 
well-diffused wealth, as no other land in all the world can 
offer. If a southern Slaveholder could ride where we 
went, and see what he must, he would at once be con- 
vinced that his miserable system was a wretched fail- 
ure. We went in by-roads, lived all the time in small 
towns, rested at the little country taverns, and not once 
saw a ragged American, and but one American at all 
affected by drink. 

Soon after his return, instigated by Mr. Lyman, 
whose fears for Parker's health had been much 
aggravated on the drive, the Twenty-Eighth begged 
him to extend his vacation until his " bronchial af- 
fection " should be allayed. The year before they 
had raised his salary $500, making it $2500, and 
offered him six months vacation, with pulpit supply. 
He had refused both offers, and now he extended 
his vacation for but a week or two. Meantime 
he was very busy preparing the " Historic Ameri- 
cans." The " Franklin " was given before the Fra- 
ternity October 6th, and two others followed. The 
" Jefferson " was not delivered. Before the month 


was over an anal fistula had made great progress, 
with dangerous symptoms, loss of flesh (twenty- 
pounds), cough, debilitating sweats. A successful 
operation gave immense relief. In November he 
wrote Ripley that he had been on his back for three 
weeks, but his hopes shot up again like fire. He did 
not see why he should not live till he was eighty 
or ninety. " If we could lie under the great oak 
tree at West Roxbury, or ride about the wild little 
lanes together, I should soon be entirely well, for 
the vigor of your mind would inspire strength even 
into my body." November 24th he went thirty 
miles into the country to attend the funeral of a 
little boy. " The circumstances were so sad and 
peculiar that I could not leave the afflicted ones to 
the poor consolations of a stranger who did not be- 
lieve, much less know, the infinite goodness of God." 
Getting into the cars he received a serious injury, 
which again took him off his feet except Sundays 
for three weeks. December 4th he kept Miss 
Cobbe's birthday " with true festal delight," it be- 
ing also his good Deacon May's, the eighty-second. 
January 1, 1859, he notes as the first New 
Year's day that had found him sick. " It looks 
as if this was the last of my new year's days on 
earth. I felt so when I gave each gift to-day ; 
yet few men have more to live for than I. It 
seems as if I had just begun a great work." 
There was no sign of sickness in the sermon of 
January 2d, " What Religion may do for a Man : 
A Sermon for the New Year." It was the last. 


A sermon for the next Sunday was prepared but 
not delivered, its subject " The Religion of Jesus 
and the Christianity of the Church,' ' — clearly 
another rendering of the fatal " Transient and 
Permanent in Christianity." On Sunday morning 
there was a violent hemorrhage of the lungs, but 
from his bed he wrote a few words to his people, 
telling them why he could not preach, hoping they 
would not forget the contribution for the poor ; 
adding, " I don't know when I shall look upon 
your welcome faces, which have so often cheered 
my spirit when my flesh was weak." Overwhelmed 
with grief the Society immediately voted its min- 
ister leave of absence for a year, his salary to be 
continued. Meantime he was to devote himself 
exclusively to the recovery of his health. He wrote 
to Mr. Manley, chairman of the Standing Com- 
mittee, that he would make the pledge and keep 
it, and he did keep it as well as he could with his 
passion for knowledge and affection, though the 
letters that he wrote and the studies in which he 
engaged for the last year of his life were enough to 
drain a well man of his strength. January 27 th he 
wrote a " Farewell Letter " to the Society, promis- 
ing a fuller one before long, and the Society made 
an elaborate reply, abounding in the liveliest ap- 
preciation and the most tender feeling, which did 
not reach him until after his arrival in the West 
Indies. Signed by the Standing Committee and 
three hundred others, its loving inundation over- 
flowed his heart with glad and mournful tears. 


There was a consultation January 23d, and he 
was told that the consumptive trouble had gone so 
far that his chance of recovery was but one in ten. 
Whereupon he wrote in his journal, " I am ready 
to die if need be — nothing to fear. When I see 
the Inevitable I fall in love with her. I laugh at 
the odds of nine to one." A trip to the West 
Indies and thence to Europe was decided on. 
Letters of sympathy came to him by dozens and 
by scores from all parts of America and from 
across the sea. It was a revelation to him, and his 
heart was broken with delight. With the others 
came a slaveholder, humbly enrolling himself 
" among the millions who gratefully participate in 
the imperishable light of Theodore Parker's truth 
and goodness in the world." Great was Parker's 
fear that he should go away and fail to write some 
last kind word to every one who had been kind to 
him. One of the longest of these letters was to 
Dr. Francis, who had been so kind to him yet 
had so often disappointed him, for all the encour- 
agement and stimulus he had afforded, and most 
of all for his anti-slavery example. To Dr. Bar- 
tol he wrote that in twenty-seven years he had 
never met him without pleasure. " In our long 
acquaintance — perilous times, too, it has been in 
— you never did or said or looked aught that was 
unkind toward me." To Dr. Gannett, a "poor 
scrawl with a pencil," thanking him for sermons 
that were among his early inspirations, and for the 
continuous example of his self-denying zeal. To 


Dr. Palfrey, with gratitude for "the noble example 
of your conscientiousness in all public affairs." To 
Mr. Fish, " Really a man has not lived in vain 
who finds so many friends when he stands on the 
brink of the grave." To Sargent, remembering 
that " when all the rest of the Boston Association, 
except Bartol," turned against him, he was firmly 
and fastly his friend and did him great service. 
To Ripley, with blessings for his friendship's lofty 
cheer — " one of the brightest spots in my life 
which has had a deal of handsome sunshine." To 
Increase Smith, for days too precious to recall, they 
make his pulses fly so fast. To Mr. Alger, for the 
sweetness of the flowers he sent and the yet sweeter 
fragrance of his note. To Lydia Maria Child, for 
" some cheering words to a young fellow fighting 
his way to education in 1833 and for much more." 
To Salmon P. Chase, for his many kind letters and 
his great public service. To William Lloyd Gar- 
rison, answering a very noble letter, "Three men 
now living have done New England and the North 
great service, ... all soldiers in the same great 
cause, William L. Garrison, Horace Mann, and 
R. W. Emerson. You took the most dangerous and 
difficult part, and no soldier ever fought with more 
gallant hardihood, no martyr ever more nobly bore 
what came as the earthly reward of his nobleness. 
... I am to thank you for what your character 
has taught me — it has been a continual Gospel of 
Strength. I value Integrity above all human vir- 
tues. I never knew yours to fail — no, nor even 
falter. God bless you for it ! " 


Besides these letters there were many others, 
the tenderest to members of his own society who 
were in affliction and to whom he could not go in 
the old way, so full of comforting and peace. 

He left Boston February 3d, accompanied by his 
wife, Miss Stevenson, and Mr. George Cabot, who 
were to be the companions of his journeyings. 
The Karnac, on which they were to sail for Santa 
Cruz, did not sail until the 8th. Mr. Frothing- 
ham was one of those who saw him off, and tells 
of his gray, gaunt look at the Astor House, and his 
determined manner ; his looking out for everything 
and everybody, and his walking to the steamer with 
his friends in a sturdy fashion. There Mr. and 
Mrs. Howe met them and were their companions 
on the voyage which ended March 3d, including 
a five days stay at Havana with touchings at other 
ports. At Havana he parted with the Howes, and 
Mrs. Howe has written of the pathetic picture of 
his face as he looked over the side of the vessel 
and waved a last farewell. April 19th he finished 
his letter to the Twenty-Eighth which was printed 
with the title " Theodore Parker's Experience as 
a Minister." I remember getting it the day that it 
came out in Boston, — what a bright looking book 
it was, its appearance matching its contents. In 
an appendix to Weiss's " Life of Parker " it makes 
sixty closely printed royal octavo pages. It is the 
best Life of Parker that has so far been written, 
and there will never be a better. A particularly 
noble passage is that reviewing the intellectual and 


moral forces that were deployed upon the scene of 
his early ministry. The intellectual and moral 
aspects of his ministry are set forth with equal 
care; his religious teachings under three heads, 
The Infinite Perfection of God, The Adequacy of 
Man for all his Functions, Absolute or Natural 
Religion. Of his lectures he dared hope that, lec- 
turing to sixty thousand every year for ten years, 
he had made a definite impression on one half of 
one per cent, and that would be three thousand 
souls. His elaborate criticism of Unitarianism 
was not unfair, considering its temporal range. 
It did not then " rejoice in the Lord " after his 
glorious fashion. But elements were to qualify 
its future which he did not foresee, especially the 
development of the scientific spirit traversing the 
transcendental. No man ever had the sense of a 
mission more profoundly than Parker or the con- 
viction of the finality of his main beliefs. Both 
came out very strongly in the " Experience." The 
second is enforced by one of his happiest illustra- 
tions, that of the English man-of-war which in the 
dim morning light hammered away at what seemed 
to be a hostile craft but proved to be a towering 
rock which could not be destroyed or sunk. Quite 
as impregnable he thought his Absolute Religion, 
quite as mistaken those who fancied it a floating, 
perishable thing. He consoled himself for his ap- 
proaching silence with this thought : " A live man 
may harm his own cause ; a dead one cannot defile 
his clean immortal doctrines with unworthy hands." 


The letter ended in a strain of grateful recogni- 
tion of his people's love and trust. 

One passage in the letter shows the alertness of 
his mind in his new environment. His powers of 
observation never slept. 

Sermons are never out of my mind ; and when sick- 
ness brings on me the consciousness that I have nought 
to do, its most painful part, still, by long habit all things 
will take this form ; and the gorgeous vegetation of the 
tropics, their fiery skies so brilliant all the day, and 
star-lit too with such exceeding beauty all the night; 
the glittering fishes in the market, as many colored as 
a gardener's show, these Josephs of the sea ; the silent 
pelicans, flying forth at morning and back again at 
night ; the strange, fantastic trees, the dry pods rattling 
their historic bones all day, while the new bloom comes 
fragrant out beside, a noiseless prophecy; the ducks 
rejoicing in the long expected rain ; a negro on an am- 
bling pad ; the slender-legged, half -naked negro children 
in the street, playing their languid games, or oftener 
screaming 'neath their mother's blows, amid black swine, 
hens, and uncounted dogs ; the never-ceasing clack of 
women's tongues, more shrewd than female in their 
shrill violence ; the unceasing, multifarious kindness 
of our hostess ; and, overtowering all, the self-sufficient 
West Indian Creole pride, alike contemptuous of toil, 
and ignorant and impotent of thought — all these com- 
mon things turn into poetry as I look on or am com- 
pelled to hear, and then transfigure into sermons, which 
come also spontaneously by night and give themselves 
to me, and even in my sleep say they are meant for you. 
Shall they ever be more than the walking of 

a sick man in his sleep, 
Three paces and then faltering ? 


Besides this sensuous observation of a man 
" standing," as he wrote, " up to his neck in the 
grave," there was the old passion for statistics hard 
at work, and the results of his investigations into 
such things as climate, rainfall, fruits, exports of 
rum, sugar, and molasses, condition of the negroes 
and the women, cover many pages of his journal 
and flow over in his letters to such friends as he 
knew would care for them. He was quite sure 
that he had come upon the true paternity of Alex- 
ander Hamilton, and wrote Ripley accordingly at 
some length. 1 

His principal engagement, however, was with the 
things that he had left behind. He was greedy 
for every scrap of political and local information : 

Ah me ! who preaches at the Music Hall ? What was 
done at the Annual Meeting ? Who is sick ? Who is 
sick no more f How is poor old Mr. Cass, Chambers 
St. Court? If he is alive, send him a box of straw- 
berries from me in their time and I will pay the price. 

Sunday. I shall always spend an hour and a half 
in my own way when the Twenty-Eighth is at worship. 

March 13, Sunday. Snow knee-deep at home, I sup- 
pose. Not many at meeting, perhaps, on account of the 
storm ; and here the fair sky seems eternal. 

March 20, Sunday. G. W. Curtis lectures at the 
Music Hall to-day, where I think I shall not speak 

1 Parker's opinion — that Hamilton was the illegitimate son of 
a Mr. Stevens, of Antigua, and half brother to Dr. Edward Ste- 
vens, of Philadelphia — is confirmed, somewhat obscurely, by Mr. 
Lodge in his Hamilton volume in the " American Statesmen " 


again. Emerson has been there once and Solger * and 
Johnson once. I can't keep the Twenty-Eighth out of 
my head. 

There are many such entries. Wherever his 
body, his soul was in the Music Hall every Sun- 
day morning, worshiping with his people, ima- 
ginary sermons throbbing in his mind. 

Leaving Santa Cruz May 11th and St. Thomas 
May 16th, he reached London June 1st, "too 
feeble to do much ! " — what he considered little 
being enough to tire a vigorous man. It included 
visits to Buckle, Charles Mackay, Martineau, New- 
man, Tayler, all the great show places, and some 
in which he had a special interest. He heard 
Huxley lecture and Martineau preach, approving 
his sermon, not the liturgy. The Charity Sermon 
in St. Paul's did not impress him so favorably as 
it did Thackeray : " eight thousand children faint- 
ing with hunger while they listened to a wretched 
sermon on human depravity." His friend Lyman 
reached London June 2d. " He took command of 
me as soon as he arrived, and hoisted his broad 
pennant, so that I sail under his colors." Mr. 
Lyman had great skill as a nurse and care-taker, 
and enjoyed Parker's absolute confidence in these 
particulars, rashly extended to some others, as when 
he made him his literary executor. In various let- 
ters he sums up the result of his West India episode. 

1 Written plainly in the journal, and not Weiss' s mistake for 
Alger, as I at first supposed. Colonel Higginson dimly recalls 
the name, but nothing more. 


He is much stronger, but the critical symptoms 
have changed but little, if at all. In a letter to 
Misses Cobbe and Carpenter we have the astonish- 
ing, almost incredible statement, " In all my ill- 
ness, and it is now in its third year, I have not had 
a single sad hour." He has " such absolute confi- 
dence in the Infinite Love that he is sure death 
is always a blessing, a step onward and upward." 
June 12th London was left for Paris, where he 
met Sumner, " the finest sight I have yet seen in 
Europe — he is now so much better than I hoped. 
... It is a continual feast to see him." Driving 
and walking he could tire Sumner out, and his 
stomach for sight-seeing was of Gargantuan capa- 
city. Arriving at Montreux, Lake Geneva, June 
22d, "there were our blessed friends [the Hunts 
and Apthorps], all well, and not at all changed 
since 1856 save only that Willy [Hippopotamousie] 
has grown older, stouter, browner, and more boy- 
like." These were to be Parker's loved companions 
for the remainder of his life. 

There was no day without a sign of his dili- 
gence in writing letters. That of June 25th was 
a long one for the annual picnic of the Twenty- 
Eighth, much more substantial fare than picnics 
commonly afford. To his brother Isaac there were 
long letters from the farmer's point of view, to 
Mrs. Cheney letters about things after her kind, 
— the wise and good people he had met, among 
them his much valued friend and correspondent, 
Professor H. D. Rogers, — and how Ellen Craft 


had called on him, his last night in London. The 
Franco-Austrian war was going on, and he ago- 
nized over the dreadful things that were happening 
less than 150 miles away from his own exile and 
peace in one. "Think of 40,000 or 50,000 able- 
bodied men in the prime of life killed, wounded, 
or missing in one day of battle ! I wish the human 
race might learn to see who the men are that thus 
misdirect the wrathful instincts of our nature to 
such wickedness." 

In company with Mr. Lyman he left Montreux 
July 26th, and arrived the next day at his friend 
Desor's delightful mountain chalet at Combe- 
Varin, overlooking the lovely Yal de Travers with 
eight or ten villages nestling in the bosoms of its 
surrounding hills, or spread upon the valley floor. 
There was, perhaps, too much intellectual excite- 
ment under Desor's roof, it being his habit to 
bring together men of scientific attainments from 
all sides. Parker entered heartily into the gener- 
ous rivalry of eager minds, wallowing in the great 
deep of their information, and planning for an 
album of their papers his last elaborate piece of 
philosophical theology, which he worked out in 
Rome, " A Bumblebee's Thoughts on the Plan and 
Purpose of the Universe," a genial satire on the 
assumption of the Bridgewater Treatises that all 
things are made for human ends, and the much 
wider assumption that in mankind we have the cli- 
max of creative energy. Moleschott, with Vogt and 
(later) Buchner the main strength of German Mate- 


rialism, was one of the symposiasts. He searched 
the joints of Parker's spiritualistic armor as with 
an Ithuriel spear, but drew no drop of blood. 

Happily there was physical exercise as well as 
intellectual, but here, also, Parker may possibly 
have overdone. Not content with felling the 
smaller trees, he attacked one of the larger firs, 
and in half an hour its length lay on the ground. 
The muscles of his back and arms had not forgot- 
ten how to swing an axe as when he was a boy. 
A beautiful friendship formed at Combe- Varin was 
that with Dr. Hans Lorenz Kiichler, preacher to 
the German-Catholic church of Heidelberg. Par- 
ker planned to visit him, but, on the very day of 
his departure from the Desor chalet, Kiichler died 
of apoplexy. Parker remained with Desor for six 
weeks, his health improving, especially his weight, 
until it was 158 pounds, more than it had been for 
twenty-nine years, while his strength was such that 
he could take long walks and lug seventy pounds 
of baggage from the steamboat to the train. 

Famous men were dying in America, — John 
Augustus, the simple-hearted Boston philanthro- 
pist, Horace Mann, and Rufus Choate, — and he 
ached to be in his old place and point the moral of 
their lives. Much that he would have said can be 
gathered from his letters to Dr. Howe and others. 
His sermon for John Augustus would have been 
" The Power of Individual Justice and Philan- 
thropy ; " on Choate, " The Abuse of Great Talents 
and Great Opportunities." Of Mann he wrote to 
Dr. Howe : — 


I think there is but one man in America who has 
done the nation so much service — that is Garrison. 
. . . Garrison had more destructiveness and more cour- 
age and also more moral directness in his modes of 
executing his plans. Mann did not know that a straight 
line is the shortest distance between two points in morals 
as in mathematics. 

This letter was so full that the loss of the 
sermon that might have been is hardly felt. He 
mourns that the Twenty-Eighth has " only a lec- 
turer from week to week ; " but surely it is a sick 
man's fancy when he writes that even Emerson 
" never appeals directly to the conscience, still less 
to the religious faculty in man." Besides, he can- 
not bear to have his people miss the help of prayer. 
" I love the custom of public prayers, and have 
taken more delight in praying with like-hearted 
people than ever in preaching to like-minded or 
otherwise-minded ; yet few men love preaching so 
well." " Dr. Channing used to say, ' It would be 
a great thing to get rid of the long prayer in our 
churches.' " Parker would have " the prayer of 
pious genius in its place." And then he likes 
" the old custom of reading the Bible, — the best 
parts of it, — and the singing of hymns." 

He got back to Montreux just before his forty- 
ninth birthday, August 24th, and kept it with 
uncommon tenderness, convinced, for all the super- 
ficial gain, that it was the last. Under the same 
conviction he wrote a letter of resignation to the 
Twenty-Eighth Society. This the society declined 


to accept, preferring, should lie never come back, 
that he should be their minister so long as he 
lived. The sheep without a shepherd grieved his 
spirit : — 

Especially is the hour of their service a sad one — 
not exactly sad but anxious, and I must give up the ob- 
servance of it. I feel much like the mother whom the 
German legends tell of, that died in child-bed and every 
night left her grave and came to the bedside of her 
child and wept. ... I leave my grave and weep at 
the hour of Sunday service of the Twenty-Eighth. Yet 
I shall see them no more. 

Meantime word had come to him of various do- 
ings among his Unitarian friends which had much 
interest for him. The younger Unitarian minis- 
ters and Divinity students were coming over to 
his side, and in 1857 the class of that year had 
elected him class-preacher, but their choice was 
negatived by the faculty. Instead of leaving the 
school, as they were tempted to do, the young men 
contented themselves with a manly protest against 
the violation of the school's essential principle 
of intellectual freedom. At the Divinity School 
alumni meeting in July, 1859, Rev. M. D. Con- 
way, a graduate of '54, offered a resolution of 
sympathy with Parker in his illness, which ex- 
pressed a hope of his return with renewed strength 
to his post of duty. James Freeman Clarke, not 
alone, supported the resolution, which was opposed 
by others ; by Dr. Hedge, while agreeing with its 
substance ; by some altogether. Dr. Bellows was 


to address the alumni, and, the hour for his ser- 
mon having arrived, a resolution to adjourn the 
preliminary meeting was entertained. Dr. Gan- 
nett wished to hear Dr. Bellows, but would not 
have the Association forfeit its honor by thus 
shirking the question. In spite of this protest the 
adjournment was carried. The newspaper account 
of this matter is inserted in Parker's journal with 
slight comments. He wrote to Freeman Clarke 
about it more fully, protesting an indifference to 
which in reality he could not quite attain. 

Dr. Bellows's sermon was the most celebrated 
one of his life, "The Suspense of Faith." It 
made more stir than any Unitarian sermon had 
made since Parker's " Transient and Permanent." 
It reflected one of Dr. Bellows's most hopeless and 
reactionary moods, and Parker was too quick to 
assume that it was significant of denominational 
backsliding. 1 It was not even significant of any 
permanent conviction on the part of the great- 
hearted Bellows, who was nothing if not oscillatory 
in the swing of his theological opinions. 

October 21st, Parker and his friends arrived in 
Rome, and by the 23d were established at No. 16 
Via delle Quattro Fontane, the Apthorps on an- 
other floor of the same house. He at once began 
to gather books and maps for the study of the 
ancient and mediaeval city. But Rome, as if she 

1 A little later we find Parker rejoicing in Dr. Hedge as presi- 
dent of the Unitarian Association and Freeman Clarke as its 
secretary, and predicting " a good time coming " for the Unitarian 


knew the heretic, gave him a cold reception. He 
had felt no such cold since he left Boston except 
for a day off the coast of England in May. The 
result was a worse cough, with sleepless nights and 
other bad symptoms. He was bettering again by 
the middle of November. The last dated entry 
in his journal is a draft or copy of his letter re- 
signing his Boston charge. The pocket note-books 
were kept up longer, and on December 31st he sets 
down " A bad cold lately with a shocking cough. 
A little blood comes now and then. . . . Here 
endeth the last year" It did not end till it had 
brought him one of the acutest sorrows of his life 
in the failure of John Brown's raid and his impris- 
onment and death. The raid culminated October 
17th ; the execution was December 2d. Parker's 
letters of November and December reflect his pain- 
ful interest in those tragical events, but not with 
such depth of feeling as his measure of responsi- 
bility for them would seem to have required. 1 For 
himself he had nothing to fear, but his anxiety for 
the safety of his coadjutors may have checked his 
spontaneity. He pasted into his journal news- 
paper accounts of various John Brown meetings, 
with the splendid Music Hall sermon of Edwin 
M. Wheelock and also one by Charles G. Ames, 
preached in Bloomington, 111. He wrote to his 
friend Manley, "No man has died .in this cen- 

1 The imperfection of the record at this point deserves consid- 
eration. Incriminating documents were ruthlessly destroyed by 
Parker's Boston friends. 


tury whose chance of immortality is worth half so 
much as John Brown's. A man who crowns a 
noble life with such a glorious act as John Brown's 
at Harper's Ferry is not forgotten in haste." To 
Francis Jackson he wrote a letter which may very 
properly be regarded as his last sermon, so evi- 
dently is it substantially what his John Brown ser- 
mon would have been. The sermon might have 
been longer, but the letter falls little short of six 
thousand words. For obvious reasons, it is less 
personal and intimate than we could wish. It is 
an elaborate defense of the right of insurrection 
by an oppressed people or in their behalf. The 
lack of insurrectionary spirit in the negro was in 
Parker's eyes his main defect, but he hoped for 
better things. He wrote : — 

Brown will die like a martyr, I think, and also like 
a saint. His noble demeanor, his unflinching bravery, 
his gentleness, his calm religious trust in God, and his 
words of truth and soberness will make a profound im- 
pression on the hearts of Northern men ; yes, and on 
Southern men. . . . Let the American State hang his 
body and the American Church damn his soul. Still 
the blessing of such as are ready to perish will fall on 
him and the universal justice of the Infinitely Perfect 
God will make him welcome home. The road to heaven 
is as short from the gallows as from the throne. 

This letter was at once published by the Parker 
Fraternity. The journal, which had now become 
a commonplace book merely, gave many other 
proofs of Parker's ruling passions, strong in his 


decay. There are pages of notes on different edi- 
tions of the Vulgate, and the last entry is a full, 
closely written quarto page on the mythical Pope 
Joan. The letters abound in archaeological data, 
and discussions and criticisms on the Roman eccle- 
siastical system and European and American poli- 
tics. He neglected painting and sculpture, writing 
Ripley that he cared less for the fine arts than for 
"the coarse arts which feed, clothe, house, and 
comfort a people ; " that he would rather be a 
Franklin than a Michael Angelo ; rather his boy, 
if he had one, should be a Stephenson than a 
Rubens. He lived a social life, seeing much of 
the Storys and the Brownings, something of Haw- 
thorne, Bryant, Mrs. Stowe, Charlotte Cushman, 
and Gibson the English sculptor. Dr. Frothing- 
ham, the conservative rationalist of the Boston 
Association, was spending the winter in Rome, and 
he and Parker found that they had much in com- 
mon, and the dying man how kind the other's heart. 
Parker's wealth of knowledge was a miracle to 
Browning and all those who got a taste of his 
quality. He knew more about Roman geology, 
antiquities, habits of the people, ecclesiastical ma- 
chinery, than those who had had several seasons 
in the city. Macaulay knew his English chancel- 
lors, but was staggered by the popes. Parker, no 
doubt, could brave the list without a fear of being 
slaughtered among the Innocents. His physical 
energy kept pace with his intellectual, notwith- 
standing the persistent ravages of his disease. He 


tramped about Rome for six or seven hours a day, 
climbing the one hundred and twenty steps to his 
quarters on his return each day with an undaunted 
will. That he was steadily losing flesh again, may 
have made the walking easier. Early in April, a 
month before his death, he goes upon a donkey- 
ride to Frascati and Tusculum, twelve miles from 
Rome. The abundance of his life impresses us 
until the final stage. 

From the beginning of the new year there was 
little change at any time for the better. The sea- 
son was uncommonly bad, and his archaeological 
studies took him to places that were too damp and 
chill for his condition. How wide, yet careful, 
these studies were, we are informed by a letter to 
Charles Ellis, written January 29th. It had not 
been posted when the news came of Mr. Ellis's 
death. He was the leading spirit among those 
who first invited Parker to come and lecture in 
Boston. To his house Parker went for his last 
visit before leaving Boston, and now he lavished 
all his wealth of consolation on the widow's lonely 
heart. Writing January 16th, Mr. Apthorp gives 
a careful account of his condition. He marks a 
constant diminution of vitality; he is more ner- 
vous and desponding, looks thinner in the face; 
complexion paler ; eyes losing the old expressive 
fire. Mrs. Apthorp tells me of the reaction from 
stimulating medicines as sometimes disturbing the 
perfect balance of his judgment of persons and 
events and inducing an irritation which was foreign 


to his proper self. Yet for the most part it was 
he who cheered and comforted the friends who 
watched with waning hope the variations of his 
condition from week to week. In Mrs. Parker's 
slow and passive disposition new energies were 
quickened by the stern requirements of the situa- 
tion. He had said that she had always been his 
baby, but now the relations were reversed : he was 
the clinging child; hers was the mother heart. 
They had not been such lovers since the days in 
Watertown when they were young together. 

In the later winter he set out to write an auto- 
biography of his early life, hoping to bring it down 
to the completion of his twenty-first year. But as 
he " never could write in foul, dark weather" and 
there was little else that year in Rome, he did not 
get further than his eighth year. This precious 
fragment is printed entire in Weiss's second chap- 
ter, and I have quoted from it freely in my first. 
Until mid- April he was almost as keenly alive as 
ever to whatever of intellectual or moral signifi- 
cance was transpiring anywhere. He hailed the 
free-trade policy of Gladstone as " one of the most 
important movements of the age." There are two 
allusions to Darwin's " Origin of Species," the 
first edition of which was published November 24, 
1859, the second January 7, 1860. Apparently 
he did not see the book, 1 but read some review of 
it and was " persuaded of it " as one of the most 

1 Mr. Frothingham seems to have had reason for a different 


important scientific works that England had pro- 
duced. It is evident that he would have welcomed 
Darwin's ideas cordially. " Science wants a God 
that is a constant force and a constant intelligence, 
immanent in every particle of matter." Darwin 
" does not believe in Agassiz's foolish notion of an 
interposition of God when a new form of lizard 
makes its appearance on the earth." From a new 
speech of Seward's he expected little, since hearing 
Mr. Lyman's account of it ; " more from Abraham 
Lincoln at the Cooper Institute." But the sad 
refrain, " To be weak is to be miserable," is that 
of almost every letter now. He yearns for Boston 
Common and all sorts of little far-off things in 
which he had once been glad ; he writes to his 
dear John Ayres that he would like to eat one of 
his Baldwin apples or a " Eoxbury rustin," in the 
parlance of his early years. 

The last letter that he wrote with pen and ink 
(April 14th) celebrated the arrival of Desor, " so 
big, with such a chest and arms and legs ! " that it 
made Parker feel strong to look at him. Desor's 
impressions of Parker were most miserable. He 
found him ten years older ; an old man. He had 
determined to leave for Florence on the 21st, but 
Desor feared he would die in some tavern on the 
way. Parker replied, "I will not die here. I 
will not leave my bones in this detested soil ; I will 
go to Florence and I will get there — that I pro- 
mise you." His last letter (in pencil) was to Miss 
Stevenson, who had gone on to Florence in ad- 


vance. He did not think the end so near. He 
wrote of going home to America September 1st. It 
seems that he was still going out, for he thanks 
God that he shall have to climb the one hundred 
and twenty steps but five times more. 

The journey of one hundred and fifty miles was 
made by vetturino in five days. They must wake 
him when they reached the Roman frontier, if he 
was asleep when they got there. He was not, as 
it proved, and he saluted with enthusiasm the 
colors of free Italy. Now he could die in peace. 

But before the end one great pleasure was in 
store for him : a meeting with Miss Cobbe, with 
whom he had been in correspondence for a dozen 
years. It was to her that he said, " I have had 
great powers and have only half used them." 
And again, — the true word of a wandering mind, 
— " There are two Theodore Parkers now : one is 
dying here in Italy ; the other I have planted in 
America. He will live there and finish my work." 
She brought him lovely flowers, and their touch 
and scent awakened memories of flowers that grew 
three thousand miles away and many years ago. 
"Dear Sallie Russell gave me these," he said. 
There were anxieties — as to when the vessel was 
going that would take him to America and about 
some confusion in his library. Clarke and Phillips 
would come to his funeral. John Ayres must come 
over after dinner and bring a last year's apple or 
a new melon. He did not forget his customary 
thoughtfulness for others, so long as consciousness 


remained. In one of the last night-watches he 
said to Mrs. Parker, " Lay down your head on the 
pillow, Bearsie, and sleep ; you have not slept for 
a long time." 

During the last days there was great weakness 
but no suffering. He gradually lapsed into a state 
in which he drew his breath so quietly that those 
who bent their faces over him could hardly tell the 
moment of his death. It was Thursday, the 10th 
of May. On Sunday, as near as might be to the 
hour of his habitual standing at his desk in Music 
Hall, he was buried in the pleasant Protestant 
cemetery, just outside the city, by the Pinti Gate. 
An old friend read the Beatitudes, and other ser- 
vice there was none. But it so happened that 
Florence held a feast that day, and the streets 
were all abloom with flags, as for a faithful soldier 
welcomed home. 



The Atlantic cable of 1858 had been a whole 
month's wonder and then had fallen silent. It was 
not until 1866 that it again became vocal. Never- 
theless it is a strange thing that the news of Par- 
ker's death, May 10 th, did not reach Boston before 
May 29th. On the evening of that day the Unita- 
rians held their annual festival in the Music Hall, 
and several of the speakers referred to the over- 
shadowing event which made the great hall seem 
a conscious mourner for the manly voice to which 
it never would again resound. Straight from his 
heart, and with unstinted praise, James Freeman 
Clarke spoke of his friend, paying a noble tribute 
to his intellectual and moral worth, and frankly 
accepting for the Unitarian body the paternity of 
this man-child who had proved so troublesome. 
The anti-slavery journals tempered their doubts of 
his theology with recognition of his anti-slavery 
zeal. The " Advertiser " said, " From whom has 
his rough surgery not cut away some old preju- 
dices, to whom has his treatment not brought some 
cure, whose eyes has he not opened to such views of 
controversies of never-ending importance as would 


otherwise never have been attained." The pro- 
slavery " Courier " said, " He is gone, and let no 
one imitate his bad qualities." The Republican 
"Atlas " noted that " the trio of leading ultra aboli- 
tionists was broken " by his death, but conceded to 
him " the character of a Puritan with the mind of a 
rationalist." The secular papers for the most part 
set an example of consideration which the religious 
papers did not follow. The " Independent," re- 
membering his anti-slavery word and work, spoke 
warmly of his character, but deplored his theologi- 
cal views as " only a legitimate growth of liberal 
Christianity." The " Observer " thought that " he 
could scarcely have been ranked as a religious 
man." The " Christian Register " marked his 
" unforgiving bitterness to opponents " as " almost 
the sole defect of his character." The " Libera- 
tor " had only praise for him, whether as theologian, 
reformer, or private individual, and it was inev- 
itable that the session of the New England Anti- 
Slavery Society, May 31st, should be mainly devoted 
to a series of generous appreciations of his char- 
acter and his practical efficiency. The speakers 
were Samuel J. May, John T. Sargent, Wendell 
Phillips, Garrison, James Freeman Clarke. There 
had been little time for second thoughts, but the 
unpremeditated words were not lacking in sobriety. 
Mr. Clarke enlarged the testimony which he had 
given at the Unitarian festival, and brought his 
poetic insight to the interpretation of his friend's 
career. With much beside, he said : — 


So tender was he, so affectionate was he, that no one 
was ever near to Parker as a friend, as an intimate com- 
panion, without wondering how it was that men could 
ever think of him as hard, stern, severe, cold, and domi- 
neering, because, in all the private relations of life, he 
was as docile as a child to the touch of love ; and it 
was only necessary, if you had any fault to find with 
anything that he had said or done, to go to him, and 
tell him just what your complaint was, or what your 
difficulty was, and just as likely as not he would at once 
admit, if there was the least reason in the complaint, 
that he was wrong. 

The next Sunday Samuel J. May was the 
preacher to whom the Twenty-Eighth turned for 
consolation, and he poured it from an overflowing 
heart. At the same meeting resolutions prepared 
by Mr. Sanborn were passed by the Society ex- 
pressing the sense of its incalculable loss ; its grati- 
tude for the high privilege it had enjoyed. June 
17th there was a memorial service, filling the hall 
as on Parker's greatest days. The Scripture was 
the psalm of psalms, the 139th, and the Beati- 
tudes ; Parker's selection, as were the hymns also : 
" While thee I seek, protecting Power," " Nearer, 
my God, to thee," and Andrews Norton's " My 
God, I thank thee." Mr. Sanborn read a severely 
simple ode which he had written for the day. 
Charles M. Ellis, a son of Parker's first Boston 
adherent, spoke for the Society. If the estimate 
was generous, it did not exceed the fact, and this 
is equally true of the other addresses that were 
made. The nearer view of a man's life is generally 


the truer view. What those who knew him think 
of him is of more importance than the verdict of 
history. What his life signified for his time is 
the main question. This it is that really signifies 
for the succeeding generations. It is the life that 
goes into the social structure most profoundly, not 
that which is best remembered and most quoted, 
that is the life best worth living. Emerson's ad- 
dress was a third with his memorial addresses upon 
Lincoln and John Brown — an apt description of 
Parker with many pregnant sentences of imper- 
sonal scope. Surely he cannot be suspected of in- 
discriminate eulogy, yet there was no loftier praise 
that day than his. 

Ah, my brave brother ! it seems as if, in a frivolous 
age, our loss were immense, and your place cannot be 
supplied. But you will already be consoled in the trans- 
fer of your genius, knowing well that the nature of the 
world will affirm to all men, in all times, that which for 
twenty-five years you valiantly spoke ; that the winds of 
Italy murmur the same truth over your grave ; the winds 
of America over these bereaved streets ; that the sea 
which bore your mourners home affirms it, the stars in 
their courses and the inspirations of youth ; whilst the 
polished and pleasant traitors to human rights, with 
perverted learning and disgraced graces, rot and are 
forgotten with their double tongue saying all that is 
sordid for the corruption of man. 

Wendell Phillips spoke at much greater length 
than Emerson, but without one superfluous word. 
His theological difference did not blind him to the 


reality of Parker's religion and the splendor of his 
service to mankind. Unable to be present, David 
A. Wasson wrote in a careful letter this among 
other things : — 

He was capable of a mighty wrath, but it was born of 
his love, and was never expended on account of his pri- 
vate wrongs ; he was angry and sinned not, for it was 
the anger of the prophet ; indignation at wrongs done 
to humanity ; a grand, a noble, a sacred passion. 

George William Curtis stood in Parker's place, 
July 16th, and spoke of Modern Infidelity, a lec- 
ture which he had delivered more than forty times 
during the recent lecture season, but now with an 
" improvement " which it had not had before. In an 
elaborate passage of beautiful and fervid eloquence 
he hailed Parker as the supreme antagonist of that 
modern infidelity he had described, infidelity to 
principle, to justice, to humanity. His personal 
recollections of the man were as forget-me-nots in- 
woven with the wreath of shining laurel which he 
laid on Parker's grave. Many were the sermons 
that were preached in churches of all kinds, the 
consciousness that the great voice was forever 
hushed dulling here and there the edge of honest 
blame. Dr. Furness said, " If great learning and 
extraordinary intellectual ability and a hearty love 
of truth be the qualifications for the pursuit and 
attainment of truth, there is no man left among us 
whom it does not become to use modesty in pro- 
nouncing judgment upon Theodore Parker's the- 


ology, for few are there better qualified than he was, 
in the respect just referred to, to form a sound 
opinion.'* Dr. Bellows, whose " suspense of faith " 
had not yet worked itself out into a better mood, 
" would not affirm certainly that Parker was a lost 
soul, but knew that he did not accept the conditions 
of salvation." Some twenty years later he made 
complete amends for this utterance, when, on the 
hundredth anniversary of Channing's birth, he 
accorded Parker hardly a lower place than Chan- 
ning on the roll of Unitarian honor, indispensable 
for the completion of the work which Channing 
had begun. James Freeman Clarke's sermon wrote 
large what he had twice spoken in the course of 
the week. Intellect, affection, will — all in full 
and harmonious activity — are, he said, the signs of 
the great man, and he found them all in Parker 
in full measure. William Henry Channing wrote 
that he had often said to those grieved by Parker's 
severity of denunciation, " Do not be frightened 
by the stone dogs and griffins at the gate : within 
is a rare garden." Mr. Alger lavished upon Par- 
ker's memory all the resources of his rhetoric, which 
veiled but could not hopelessly obscure the noble 
outlines of his thought. Especially noteworthy 
was his analysis and defense of Parker's merciless 
dealing with the popular theology and political 
iniquity. Dr. Bartol was less generous with the 
dead than he had been with the living man, and 
has long since outgrown much of the criticism that 
he made. He found Parker's polemic temper un- 


christian, yet remembered Channing's crying out, 
" Should any contempt of wrong be like the Chris- 
tian's ! " Of the many sermons preached in Parker's 
honor or dispraise but few have been preserved, 
and the collection 1 is particularly weak in orthodox 
examples. In these I seem to find much kindly 
disposition to say all that could be said in honor 
of the heretic. Yet one Methodist preacher, since 
highly distinguished, said, " No open peculator from 
Boston's treasury, no unrelenting, heartless land- 
lord, no dissolute public officer, no wholesale or 
retail rumseller, no pimp of North Street or se- 
ducer of Boston has ever wrought, in my judgment, 
such extensive, effectual, irretrievable mischief in 
this city, since the advent of this distinguished 
errorist in it, as he." Another Methodist preacher 
assailed him with many weapons, theological, phi- 
losophical, and critical, yet ended with a glow- 
ing tribute to his large-hearted charity, his brave 
treatment of respectable iniquity, and his service to 
the slave : " Many a fugitive, fleeing with his life 
in his hand and his eye on the star, will feel his 
heart sink as he marks the light grow dim ; for 
a bright ray is quenched out of that polar star." 

In the house of his friends Parker found no 
better eulogist than O. B. Frothingham, 2 who, no- 

1 See this in Boston Public Library. For a partial list see 
Allibone, and also for a list of reviews of Parker's books and criti- 
cisms of particular sermons and his general course. 

2 Unless I except Samuel Johnson's Theodore Parker, which, 
as we now have it, published in 1890, is made up from several 
lectures, inclusive of one given in Music Hall soon after Parker's 


thing if not critical, mingled with lofty, well-con- 
sidered praise some frank and fearless indications 
of what seemed to him to be defects ; here and 
there, I have imagined, " hoist with his own petar," 
disclosing by his criticism not so much Parker's as 
his own defect. Himself weak in sentiment, he 
thought Parker had too much, yet too little reli- 
gious sensibility. To go from Parker to Martineau, 
he said, is to go from a New England meeting- 
house to a cathedral. In Parker we miss " the 
atmosphere of devout feeling, the n^stery, the awe, 
the worship, the chastened reverence that makes 
allowance for all expressions." Mr. Frothingham's 
explanation is that Parker's religious sensibility 
" bore no proportion to his inordinate intellectual 
power." But I find Parker's religious sensibility 
much greater than his intellectual power. There 
was the difference indicated, but we must look else- 
where for an explanation — to Parker's exagger- 
ation of Martineau's conspicuous defect, that of 
looking for the significance of religion too rigidly 
to its intellectual contents. Less questionable is 
Mr. Frothingham's deliverance when he says, " He 
was the grandest Theist of the time. . . . No 
teacher has unfolded a conception of God so sub- 
death. Nothing- written about Parker, in brief, is more deserv- 
ing of attention than this exalted presentation of the form and 
spirit of his life. From time to time during the forty years 
which have elapsed since Parker's death there have been many 
careful studies of the man, with an amount of casual reference 
that would make a larger book than this of mine ; some of it, like 
Mrs. Howe's in her recent Reminiscences, of very great inter- 
est and charm. 


lime, so clear, so overwhelming in glory and light 
as his." It was over against this that the tradi- 
tional conception seemed to Parker utterly mon- 
strous and abominable, and he made little or no 
allowance for the selective principle in popular be- 
lief or for those ideal elements which find their sym- 
bols in doctrines which intellectually, morally, and 
aesthetically are intolerably hideous or grotesque. 

In October following Parker's death the " At- 
lantic" published an appreciation of Parker by 
Colonel Higginson which remains to this day one 
of the most excellent that have appeared. 1 It was 
warm with personal affection, without any failure 
of clear-sighted apprehension of Parker's intellec- 
tual and moral worth. Strangely enough it was 
weakest on that side where Colonel Higginson 
knew Parker best, that of the anti-slavery reformer. 
He makes up what is lacking here in his " Cheer- 
ful Yesterdays " and elsewhere. The " Atlantic " 
article was a subject of correspondence between 
Lowell, then editing the magazine, and Higgin- 
son. Lowell thought Parker had more force than 
power, whatever that might mean. Other notable 
appreciations are those of J. H. Allen and D. A. 
Wasson in the " Examiner " for January and July, 
1864, both reviewing Weiss's " Life and Corre- 
spondence of Theodore Parker " which appeared 
late in 1863. 

Weiss was pure genius, and had no mere talent 
for biography or anything else. Fantastical in 
1 Lately republished in Colonel Higginson's Contemporaries. 


their style and chaotic in their disarrangement, his 
two royal octavos did not make a simple impression 
on those who could withdraw themselves from the 
appalling national tragedy of 1864 to study the 
character of one of the most conspicuous actors in 
its earlier scenes. With many penetrating judg- 
ments, it was the habit of the book to treat as 
comedy much which had been to Parker anything 
but that. But there was the wealth of Parker's 
correspondence poured out in a tumultuous flood 
which has been my continual despair, so limited 
the space at my command. Here was conclusive 
testimony to the abundance of Parker's intellectual 
acquirements, to his quick reaction upon these, 
and to the prodigality with which he gave any- 
thing he had alike to friends and foes. Here was 
the anti-slavery part of Parker's life exhibited 
with a sympathy and fullness that left little to de- 
sire. The surprise of the book for the ill-informed 
was the tender secret piety which breathed from 
many a page ; that and the sensitive and loving 
heart which seemed to be at variance with what 
had been conceived to be his joy of battle, his 
delight in giving stunning blows. A year later, 
in French, and at once translated, came Dr. Albert 
Reville's "Life and Writings of Theodore Par- 
ker," very happily conceived, and finding in the 
Prophet that type of character which Parker ex- 
emplified as he did no other, and to a degree un- 
paralleled in his own time. An English life by 
Mr. Peter Dean (1877) is excellent within narrow 


limits, the liberal quotations from Parker's writings 
being made with much discrimination. Frances 
E. Cooke's « Story of Theodore Parker " (1883), 
which is intended for young people, catches the 
spirit of his life in an exceptional manner and de- 
gree. It is, however, disfigured by many inaccu- 
racies. The " Biography " by O. B. Frothingham 
appeared in 1874. Some have found in it too 
much of critical detachment ; therewith a lack of 
hearty sympathy with the man described. And 
it is true that since Parker sailed away in 1859, 
and Frothingham stood at the wharf's end watch- 
ing him till he " melted from the smallness of a 
gnat to air," he had put an ocean's width between 
his own philosophic method and that of Parker. 
There are marks of this recession in the book, yet 
such was Frothingham's gift for seizing with im- 
aginative sympathy upon another's point of view, 
and so tenderly did he regret his lost illusions, that 
his " Life of Parker " did not, I think, suffer any 
serious detriment on this account. Much careful 
study has made it far more beautiful for me than 
it had been to my careless reading, and gladly 
would I sink this craft of mine if, by so doing, 
that might renew its course, and carry its rich 
freight to friendly and to alien men. 

Besides these literary monuments Parker had 
others, while as yet his memory was green in many 
faithful hearts. Of one of these I have already 
spoken : the great cubic block of granite with which 
his Boston friends marked the site of the house 


in which he was born. His grave in Florence was 
at once marked with a gray marble stone, simple 
as those that mark in Lexington the places where 

The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. 

The inscription — his own choice — could not 
have been simpler than it was : " Theodore Parker, 
Born at Lexington, Mass., United States of Amer- 
ica, Aug. 24, 1810, Died at Florence, May 10, 
I860." Making due pilgrimage to the sacred spot 
in 1887, I found nothing in its appearance for 
regret or change. But about this time the desire 
became imperative for a more expressive monu- 
ment, and, Mr. Theodore Stanton leading and 
many following, the means for its erection were 
gathered, and the design was intrusted to Parker's 
friend, William Story, the distinguished American 
sculptor. The design is very beautiful : Parker's 
face, in half-relief, is encircled by a laurel wreath, 
and to the inscription on the original stone is 
added, after Parker's name, " The Great American 
Preacher," and at the end, " His name is engraved 
in marble, his virtues in the hearts of those he 
helped to free from slavery and superstition." At 
the unveiling of the monument, 1 Thanksgiving 
Day, 1891, an appropriate address was made by 
the Hon. Charles Tuckerman ; a poem was read by 

1 For a full account see the Christian Register, January 7, 
1892. In the same number will be found an article, with illus- 
trations, describing the proposed Boston statue of Parker, with 
accessory symbolical figures, long since completed but never set 
up, it having failed of the approval of those having authority in 


Mr. Story; the American flag, which at first con- 
cealed the work, was drawn aside by Grace Ellery 
Channing, a granddaughter of Dr. Channing. 

Another monument to Parker was the " Parker 
Memorial Meeting House," built by the Twenty- 
Eighth Society in 1873. Since Parker's death the 
Society had met with various misfortunes. The 
building of the great organ had driven it from 
Music Hall, and the exigencies of commerce from 
the Melodeon, to which it had returned. The need 
of a permanent home was felt, and the Parker 
Memorial was built in answer to this need. There 
had been settled ministers for short periods, David 
A. Wasson and James Vila Blake, and always a 
cordial welcome to "men of light and leading," 
ordained of men, or by God only, to preach good 
tidings. But the fierce light that beat from Par- 
ker's fame made too conspicuous the shortcomings 
of the best of his successors as ministers of the 
Society, and the reliance upon casual genius was 
too precarious to maintain the Society in a flour- 
ishing condition. In 1889 the property was made 
over to the Benevolent Fraternity of Churches 
in trust for religious uses, and has been faithfully 
administered upon lines congenial with the spirit 
of Parker's various activity. He owed the Be- 
nevolent Fraternity so much (indirectly) for his 

such matters. The design can hardly be considered fortunate or 
in keeping with Parker's love of simple things. It is now 
proposed to place the statue, without the subordinate figures, in 
front of the new West Roxbury church, that in which Parker 
preached having been injured by fire beyond repair. 


"chance to be heard in Boston" that it was obvi- 
ous poetic justice for his friends to make it the 
almoner of their bounty to the community, amount- 
ing to some $80,000. 

Mrs. Parker outlived her husband more than 
twenty years, dying April 9, 1881. More loyal to 
his memory she could not have been. She had not 
a particle of that vile sense of ownership which 
sometimes has defrauded us of what is rightly 
ours in the life-histories of public men. What she 
could do she did to make her husband's influence 
live and work. She carried out his wishes for 
the disposition of his library with exact fidelity, 
and at her death added to his splendid gift to the 
Boston Public Library the books which in accord- 
ance with the terms of the will had remained in 
her possession. She gathered up his letters from 
near and far, and, aware of their illegibility, had 
many hundreds of them handsomely copied for the 
use of Mr. Weiss and subsequent biographers, to 
whom also she courageously intrusted his journals, 
blotting a line sometimes, but leaving them free, 
almost entirely, to lay bare the secrets of a singu- 
larly impulsive heart, much given to alternations of 
personal feeling from the brightest to the darkest 
moods. Those of us who have read this journal 
must often have felt that we were violating pen- 
etralia from which we should have been debarred ; 
yet, at the end, have acknowledged that but for 
this intimate revelation we never should have 
known how noble Parker was. 


But Mrs. Parker was unfortunate in her choice 
of a literary adviser, being intent on doing every- 
thing as " Theodore " had directed, and giving final 
weight to a chance expression of impulsive grati- 
tude in one of his last letters. Hence serious 
mismanagement of Parker's books already pub- 
lished and others lying in the rough and awaiting 
editorial supervision. In 1866 Miss Cobbe began 
the publication of Parker's complete works with an 
Introduction that is one of the most intelligent 
tributes ever paid to Parker's religious genius, 
while the editing, because of haste and the editor's 
remoteness from Parker's American entourage, 
was imperfect work. The fourteen volumes, partly 
because of their expensiveness, had a disappoint- 
ing sale, especially in America where few of Par- 
ker's clientele were in the way of buying English 
books. But deeper causes were at work to prevent 
Parker's posthumous reputation from being what 
his most loyal friends would fain have had its 
growing bulk. The years immediately following 
a man's death are agreed to be those which gener- 
ally determine what grip he is to have upon pos- 
terity. These years in Parker's case found the 
country, and especially his friends, floundering in 
that terrible Red Sea which is now called, in dis- 
tinction from some others, the Great War. Few 
had done more than he to bring about that war. 
Few contributed so much to its moral sinews. 
Emerson was a first-rate recruiting officer, but 
Parker was not a second best. Very significant 


is the story of the man who seceded from a par« 
ticular congregation because his minister had ex- 
changed with Parker. In the war time he came 
back because, as he explained, " When I saw the 
influence of his mind on our soldiers, I was forced 
to make a different estimate of the man." But 
from '61 to '65 the daily newspaper was too en- 
grossing for men to read over again much of the 
literature that had inspired the struggle with its 
loftiest aims. 

Of more importance, probably, is the fact that 
Parker was, as it stands written on his monument 
in Florence, " The Great American Preacher." 
So eminently were his sermons and lectures adapted 
for speaking that they had no corresponding value 
for " the harvest of a quiet eye." They were so 
exuberant that they were inevitably redundant. 
Moreover their temporal fitness was an unfailing 
quality which was bound to have its natural de- 
fect, except for the historian going to them for 
the living pulse of the not quite irrevocable past. 
There is also to be considered, that, soon after 
Parker's death, there set in the scientific tendency 
of thought, for some twenty years remanding the 
metaphysicians, the transcendentalists, to an infe- 
rior and doubtful place among the intellectual 
leaders of mankind. It is certain that many, to 
whom Parker's name would have been as a banner 
lifted up, but for the flood that came in with Dar- 
win and Spencer, went after these strange gods 
with more confidence in their finality than has been 


justified by the developments of the last twenty- 

It would be easy to exaggerate the influence of 
Parker on the course of thought since the tragical 
arrest of his activity by the fatal shears. The 
change has been most wonderful, but even where 
it has been in a direction sympathetic with his 
genius, not to distinguish between post and propter 
hoc as quite different relations would be the ex- 
treme of foolishness. Many had labored before 
Parker and he entered into their labors. Many 
since his day have labored, and who is there so 
presumptuous as to dare assign to each his hon- 
orable part ? The best that one can do is to in- 
quire to what extent Parker's mind and work were 
prophetic of what seems best accredited and most 
likely to endure in the several fields of his intel- 
lectual and ethical activity. Let us consider first 
the philosophical. 

There are those who admire him heartily on 
other counts, who, upon this, assure us that his 
only laurels are those of a magnificent protago- 
nist of a lost cause. Assuming for the moment 
that the cause of intuitional metaphysics is lost, it 
is certain that its rise and growth in Germany, 
France, England, and America, was an advance of 
great importance on the philosophy before Kant. 
Its criticism on the Sensationalists was a valid, if 
not a final one. What Parker did was to trans- 
late the spiritual philosophy of Schelling and 
Jacobi and Emerson into terms of popular appre- 


tension ; in effect to substitute a universal inspira- 
tion for that which had been limited to the Bible 
and the Christian Church. In doing this, as we 
have seen, the doctrine took on the form and color 
of his personal assurance in a high degree. His 
philosophical " consciousness " of God and immor- 
tality and the moral law reflected the unwavering 
confidence of his believing soul,* while at the same 
time his doctrine reacted on his spontaneous belief, 
and made it possible for him to be the preacher 
of a gospel which was no mere personal idiosyn- 
crasy but the voice of human nature speaking 
from its utmost depths with a divine sincerity and 
the accent of eternal truth. What we have to 
consider is how far the position of Parker has 
been justified and how far discredited by that 
evolution of philosophy which we have now come 
to take for granted as affecting every system and 
preventing the finality of any, and the conclusion 
to which we are led is that his criticism of the 
Sensationalism which he found everywhere in- 
trenched was in the rough a valid one, especially 
his criticism of Materialism as represented by 
Cabanis and Vogt and Moleschott. The collapse 
of such materialism, both on the side of science 
and on that of metaphysics, has been one of the 
most striking incidents of the last half century. 
Matter in this controversy has been the veriest 
Proteus, as " mind-stuff " and as " points of force " 
losing much of its original deformity. In the 
phrase of Martineau, we have had " Matter that 


is up to everything, even to discovering the law of 
its own evolution." But, however elusive, it has 
failed to justify itself as the original substance of 
the world. Such standing has tended to the side 
of Mind with a resistless gravitation. Parker's 
contention that the world is fundamentally spirit- 
ual has been tried as by fire and proved a sound 
one as never in the course of philosophic thinking 
before now. With Naturalism in general the case 
has not been quite the same as with Materialism, 
but it is very different now from what it was half- 
way between this and Parker's time. Naturalism 
has been subjected to such criticism by the English 
Neo-Kantians and Hegelians, especially by Profes- 
sor James Ward, in his " Naturalism and Agnos- 
ticism," that it is walking much more softly now 
than formerly. It looks very much as if the natu- 
ralistic philosophy was to be discredited as hasty, 
crude, unequal to the exigency of the facts to be 
accounted for. Certainly the new metaphysics is 
very different from Parker's, far less simple and 
less confident. To pass from his metaphysical 
thinking to that of Ward and Green and Wal- 
lace and the Cairds and Seths is like passing 
from a New England orchard to the wondrous in- 
terlacement of the Adirondack woods. But that 
Parker was the protagonist of a lost cause seems 
not by any means so sure to-day as sometimes 
heretofore. The fundamental dominance of the 
spiritual facts seems to be getting every day more 
thoroughly assured. Science has written the new 


book of Exodus in a way that would have de- 
lighted Parker's soul, but that Philosophy will 
have to write the new book of Genesis, as he 
believed, grows likelier as time goes on. 

Parker's philosophy, not in its particular ex- 
pression, but in its essential purport, long since 
became the darling weapon of the orthodox in 
their battle with the materialistic forces of the 
time, but what, let us now ask, is the verdict of 
the dying century on his theological opinions ? 
They have, to a very great extent, become the 
commonplaces of that Progressive Orthodoxy which 
is now inclusive of many thousands of teachers, 
preachers, and laymen in the orthodox churches. 
His main contention — that man is naturally and 
universally religious — finds eloquent expression 
in books and from pulpits innumerable where no 
taint of heresy is suspected by the most watchful 
for such miserable offense. This means that the 
doctrine of total depravity has had its day and 
ceased to be. The most favored son among the 
Presbyterians renders the doctrine of election as 
the wickedness of seeking to obtain personal, indi- 
vidual salvation : we must save ourselves by sav- 
ing others. And in this genial construction the 
preacher has a host of friends. He and others in 
regular orthodox standing have denounced the Cal- 
vinistic God in terms that Parker's severity did 
not exceed. Here, where Parker has been most 
blamed, it should be remembered that both his 
love of God and his love of man necessitated his 


severity. How could he love God as the Infinitely- 
Perfect and not abhor the monstrous caricatures 
that were published as his likeness in the churches 
of his time ? How could he love his fellow men so 
passionately and not resolve that they should share 
his joy in what was to him an inexpressible de- 
light ? It is said that he, in his turn, caricatured 
the traditional theology ; and it is probable that he 
did, as it was preached in many churches before 
1860 ; but not as it was preached in many and the 
most of them, and not as he found it in Boston's 
" Four-fold State " and many newer books. Upon 
the doctrine of eternal hell he flung himself with 
special violence. Now, in New England's Congre- 
gational church of highest rank that doctrine gets as 
little countenance as it got from Theodore Parker, 
and in hundreds of other churches, Congregational 
and Episcopal, there is a similar condition. The 
doctrine of the Trinity as now rendered in these 
churches would hardly have been recognized as 
such by the orthodox of Parker's time. Even 
his insistence on the entire humanity of Jesus is 
shared by many orthodox preachers, while at the 
same time, without logical or psychological serious- 
ness, a unique divinity is ascribed to him. Long 
since the heresy of his South Boston sermon — that 
miracles are no longer needed to sustain the truths 
of Christianity — became one of the obiter dicta of 
the orthodox preacher. Since Bushnell, moreover, 
by a skillful use of words, Supernaturalism has ob- 
tained fresh honor in the churches where its very 


life seemed threatened ; but the Supernaturalism of 
Bushnell is hardly to be distinguished from the 
Spiritualism of Parker, with which his anti-super- 
naturalism did not conflict. Measured by the can- 
ons of BushnelTs Supernaturalism Parker would 
have been the greatest Supernaturalist of his time, 
so complete was his persuasion of the ascendency 
of Universal Mind and so confident his assurance 
of God's constant access to the human soul. 

Evangelical piety has found Parker lacking in 
" the sense of sin," not in particular acts but in 
the substratum of his nature. If this was treason 
we must make the most of it. He had no such 
sense of sin. But no man was more sensitive than 
he to lapses from his own moral ideal, or dealt 
more sternly with the political and commercial and 
ecclesiastical sins of his generation. That his ro- 
bust optimism had the defect of its quality may 
not be wholly denied. It took but slight account 
of those tragical elements which inhere so deep in 
life ; of that " shadow of the Almighty " which 
has lain so heavy upon many thoughtful minds. 
It must further be conceded that Parker did not 
habitually, or frequently, penetrate to the ideal 
contents of those religious forms which in their 
obvious construction shocked his intellectual mod- 
esty and his moral sense. 

I have reserved for the climax of this survey 
that doctrine of the Divine Immanence in Matter 
and in Man which was so central to Parker's theo- 
logical affirmation, and had a recurrence in his 


preaching not exceeded by his doctrines of the 
Infinitely Perfect God and the Adequacy of Man 
for all his Functions. His Divine Immanence in 
Matter was not a new discovery, but it was a 
forgotten truth in the New England churches. It 
was not quite the same as Emerson's disposition 
towards " seeing all things in God." In the aca- 
demic nomenclature of this subject, Parker's God 
was more transcendent than Emerson's, less iden- 
tical with the total universe. His thought was not 
quite that of Goethe's " Gott und Welt," — 

God dwells within and moves the world and moulds, 
Himself and Nature in one form enfolds. 

It was that of a God transcending the material 
universe, yet working in it organically, not mechan- 
ically from without. Forty years after Parker's 
death this thought has become the common pro- 
perty of the Unitarian and more liberal orthodox 
people. Many influences have contributed to this 
result, speculative philosophy and evolutionary 
science in about equal parts. Parker's influence 
has been quite subordinate to these, but that he 
apprehended this idea so clearly at a time when 
it had not another pulpit advocate, and published 
it with glowing eloquence, is surely the most signi- 
ficant anticipation of his prophetic soul, dreaming 
of things to come. 

Dr. Bellows regarded Parker's Divine Imma- 
nence in Man as the most important of his contri- 
butions to Unitarian thought. He said, somewhat 
too sweepingly, that the Unitarians before Parker 


"had not so much as heard that there was any- 
Holy Ghost," and he interpreted Parker's Divine 
Immanence as a doctrine of the Holy Spirit. But 
it was less a revival of this doctrine than an an- 
ticipation of that doctrine of the Incarnation of God 
in Humanity which in our time is being ingeniously 
represented in progressive orthodox circles as the 
true meaning of the Incarnation of God in Jesus 
Christ. What is certain is that the traditional 
doctrine had no such meaning, but it is an inter- 
esting sign of the times that men in good and 
regular orthodox standing are now interpreting 
the Divine Incarnation in the terms of Theodore 
Parker's Divine Immanence, which was accounted 
one of the most blasphemous of all his heresies 
some sixty years ago. 

If this partial survey should be made complete, 
and every proper qualification should be made, 
the justification of Parker's daring innovations in 
theology by the tendencies and attainments of the 
present time would be a startling comment on the 
treatment he received and on the changes that have 
taken place in the religious world since he was 
carried from the field. 1 

1 Among Unitarians Parker's standing- has for along- time been 
as assured as that of Channing, though not in the same manner 
and degree. His portrait hangs with that of Channing and other 
Unitarian worthies in the Channing Hall of the American Uni- 
tarian Association. In 1885 the Association published a large 
selection from his sermons, introduced by Dr. Clarke, and in 1890 
TJnitarianism : Its Origin and History, which contains an admir- 
able lecture on Parker by the Rev. Samuel B. Stewart. In the 
same volume Dr. J. H. Allen said that no Unitarian now thinks 


Parker's critical treatment of the Bible gave 
very great offense, not only because of particular 
judgments but because of bis general relegation of 
it to the standing of a human composition. As to 
the former it is the simple truth, that, from our 
present standpoint, he errs far less in the breadth 
than in the narrowness of his departure from the 
traditional opinions. Particular mistakes he made, 
no doubt. Others, as great, are being made by 
the best critics of the present time. The signifi- 
cant thing is that Parker's criticism, on the lines 
of De Wette, Ewald and other German masters, 
was entirely in the direction which the soundest 
Biblical criticism has taken since his day. 

Most can raise the flowers now 
For all have got the seed. 

They grow as plentifully in the great orthodox 
gardens as in the little Unitarian parterre. Driver, 
Cheyne and others of unquestioned orthodoxy have 
published particular constructions of the Penta- 
teuch, the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Gospels 
and Epistles that make Parker's heterodoxy seem 
antiquated, almost absurd, orthodoxy. At the same 
time there has been a brave attempt to save for 
the Bible the appearance of some kind of special in- 
spiration, but " the sifted sediment of a residuum " 
which has thus been preserved is in no respect 
commensurate with the verbally infallible Bible of 
which Parker found his generation in consciously 

of miracles as they were thought of by Parker's critics in 


secure possession, nor can it more than tempora- 
rily delay the frank acknowledgment of the fact 
which Parker saw in its unqualified simplicity. 

In all reformatory matters Parker was a care- 
ful student of the facts and went far to anticipate 
the latest sociology. When the Reform School at 
Westboro' was burned down he rejoiced in its de- 
struction, saying that it was " a school of crime," 
and contending that the herding of bad boys to- 
gether was a terrible mistake ; and a similar pre- 
science characterized his dealing with all questions 
affecting the condition of the dangerous and perish- 
ing classes. But all his other reformatory work 
is little in comparison with his contribution to the 
anti-slavery struggle. It was a contribution which 
assigns to him a place with Garrison and Lincoln 
and Sumner and Phillips and a few others of the 
greatest leaders, before the " exchange of ideas at 
the cannon's mouth " began. Had he done no- 
thing else, here was a whole day's work, and the 
faithful servant would have earned no scant " Well 
done ! " No other brought to the attack on sla- 
very his knowledge of its economical bearings, but 
with this intellectual preparedness there went an 
ethical passion which no Abolitionist, not Garrison 
himself, could overtop. The peculiarity of his ser- 
vice, in good measure, was the translation of the 
moral fervor of the Abolitionists into the terms of 
anti-slavery politics. Never agreeing with Gar- 
rison and those Abolitionists who were like-minded 
with him in their non-voting, non-resistance meth- 


ods, he was with them wholly in their conviction 
that slavery must and should be, not only limited, 
but utterly destroyed ; and no other did so much to 
plant the seeds of this conviction in those political 
furrows, where they sprang up armed men from 
1861 to 1865. It has been charged against him 
that he precipitated the contest. If he did, so much 
the better. " Without shedding of blood there was 
no remission." Parker was thoroughly convinced 
of this and did not fight as those who beat the air. 
The catastrophe was timely. It did not come too 
soon, nor yet too late, except that to his earthly 
vision was denied the sight of the great consumma- 
tion. To have been a leader of the leaders in the 
task of liberating four million people and a great 
nation from the curse of slavery — that, could he 
have been prescient of the whole event, might have 
seemed to him a work with which to be well con- 
tent. And it might not, for there were other bonds 
which, till they were riven, ate into his soul. 

However disappointing Parker's lack of literary 
permanence may be to those who rate him high, it 
is not as if his mind and conscience had not been 
taken up into the substance of our political and 
religious life. So has he joined 

the choir invisible, 
Whose music is the gladness of the world. 

Though others have done the good thing before 
me, I cannot resist the inclination to seek some 
final measure of his personality in the terms of 
that five-fold division of human nature which 


served him so often and so well in his endeavors 
to delineate the characters of distinguished men. 
If he was not, like Plotinus, ashamed of his body, 
he had no great reason to be proud of it, breaking, 
as it did, about midway of what should have been 
his length of useful days. Nevertheless it was a 
body that enabled him to take much vigorous 
exercise and do a phenomenal amount of work. 
It had strong legs and arms, and when he shook 
hands with a friend it was with a grip that gave 
assurance of a man. He stood firmly planted, and 
his gait had the flat-footed, downright fashion of 
his mind. He was not built on graceful lines : 
something of the New England farmer survived in 
his form and carriage. His face was not hand- 
some, though his friends came to think it so, with 
its great dome of brow, its honest blue-gray eyes, its 
undistinguished nose, and hard-set, fighting mouth. 
His appetites were healthy, his habits simple and 
temperate, his iive senses keen upon the track of 
their appropriate delights. 1 

The whole man was of a piece, so that intel- 
lectually he was not so fine and delicate as he 
was homely and vigorous. On the aesthetic side 
he was but meagrely endowed, either in the way 
of appreciation or productive power. To the art 
treasures of Europe he brought only a thumb-rule 
measurement. He enjoyed classical music, but not 
so much, in all sincerity, as his favorite hymns. 

1 Of the " five wits," he had abundant " common wit," " judg- 
ment" and " memory ; " less " imagination " and less " fantasy." 


He tried at one time to cultivate his voice, but 
could only sing one note. In poetry many of the 
best things attracted him, but Shakespeare less 
than Homer and Sophocles, and Shakespeare's 
sonnets more than Shakespeare's plays. This in 
part because Shakespeare, "were he living now, 
would be a hunker and a snob." The defective 
taste of many passages in his writings is one sign 
of his aesthetic limitation. Yet the beauty of nat- 
ural things and of human forms and faces had for 
him remarkable attraction, and this passed into 
his sermons and made many passages in them as 
tender as June mornings and as soft as flowers. 

It is the strength of Parker's mind that im- 
presses us as we arrive at closer comprehension of 
his mental operations. His acquisitions were enor- 
mous: few men in America have been so well 
informed. Of men whom I have known person- 
ally or in books, only Michael Heilprin has given 
me an equal sense of intellectual accumulation. 
But this had not the ordinary effect. It did not 
dwarf and paralyze his reasoning powers. These 
reacted vigorously and acutely upon his vast stores 
of knowledge, so that the powerful thinker is much 
more effectively present with us in his writings, 
public and private, than the man of many lan- 
guages and quite boundless knowledge. That he 
was a great reader and student rather than a great 
scholar seems to be " the consensus of the compe- 
tent " concerning him. One of the most tragical 
aspects of his life is that he turned his stores of 


knowledge to so little account in the production of 
any learned work, with the not very important 
exception of his translation of De Wette's "In- 
troduction." It has, however, been surmised by 
friendly critics that he had not the scholarly habit, 
the talent for delicately assaying evidence and 
skillfully coordinating it which constitutes the effi- 
cient scholar. 

Somewhat more general is the agreement that 
Parker's intellectual ability was not that of the 
metaphysician, while the more hostile have repre- 
sented him as being much mistaken in his conceit 
of philosophical knowledge. It may be that he 
had less aptitude for metaphysics than he ima- 
gined, its fascination for him was so great ; but it 
should be remembered that he often used the term 
" philosophy " with a wide inclusion which took 
up science with metaphysics. He did not overrate 
his reasoning powers. He was not a master of 
metaphysical refinements, but a powerful thinker 
he certainly was upon inductive lines, applying his 
mind to great masses of facts and drawing out 
their significance ; with great ability, moreover, in 
deducing from first principles their appropriate 

The fullness of Parker's mind and the vigor of 
his mental operations are, however, less admirable 
than his moral character, as displayed in all the 
personal relations of his life, in his unflagging 
industry, in the exigent interpretation that he gave 
to his ministerial office, in his courageous dealing 


with political iniquity, and especially in his devo- 
tion of himself with all his gifts and acquisitions 
to the furtherance of religious truth and social 
righteousness. His life was one of perfect conse- 
cration to the welfare of his fellow men. He had 
those " great powers " of which he was still con- 
scious in the shadow of death, 1 and, if he "only 
half used them," as he mourned, it would be in- 
teresting to know what vulgar fraction of their 
powers is used by the majority of men, and even 
by many who conceive that they have let no talent 
run to waste. 

For Parker, as we have seen, Affection was of 
higher range than Intellect or Conscience, and in 
his personal life it had the ascendency which he 
assigned to it in his hierarchy of man's powers. 
It was because his heart was so warm and tender, 
that the slings and arrows of theological contro- 
versy made in his flesh such deep and lasting 
wounds ; that he set such value on his friends and 
was so sensitive to their praise and blame ; that 
the Twenty-Eighth was to him " a thing ensky'd ; " 
that, because he had no children, he went mourn- 
ing all his days and was always gathering those of 
his universal and particular adoption to his heart. 
It was because he was such a lover of mankind 
that he could not endure to see it so defrauded of 
what was to him his utmost joy — an absolute con- 
fidence in the perfect wisdom and the perfect love 
of God. His detestation of the traditional theo- 
logy was but the harsh expression of his passionate 


jealousy for the divine perfection and of his pas- 
sionate regret that men should fail to enter into 
an inheritance prepared for them from the founda- 
tion of the world. 

At the top of Parker's hierarchy of man's 
powers was the religious faculty, the soul. It is 
not necessary for us to construe this as he did in 
order to appreciate his realization of its theoretical 
significance for him in his personal experience. 
In what he thought a separate faculty many have 
found the high consent of intellect, affection, con- 
science, confronted by the Mystery of mysteries. 
But, whatever the true rendering of the facts, no- 
thing else touching the life of Parker is so sure as 
that his religiousness, his sense of the eternal and 
divine, of God, was the central fact of his experi- 
ence. Always in setting forth his religious sys- 
tem, he wrote large at the top, The Infinite 
Perfection of God. He never tired of reiter- 
ating this doctrine and of drawing out from it 
a doctrine of the perfect world, a perfect provi- 
dence, a perfect opportunity and future for hu- 
manity. He often tried to show how wonder- 
fully man's central piety, the love of God, irradi- 
ated and enforced all other pieties of mind and 
heart and will. But all of these endeavors to give 
intellectual expression to his religious feeling fall 
far below its actual height. I cannot conceive of 
a man more enamored than he was of the Divine 
Perfection and living more habitually in his con- 
sciousness of it, and in the peace and comfort 


which such consciousness assures to those with 
whom it dwells. Whatever else he was, he was, 
first, last, and always, a believing and rejoicing 

This in his private meditation and his public 
speech, — his swiftest words still loitering behind 
his climbing thought. A parallel impression is 
that of the marvelous abundance of his life, its 
industry, its resource, the overflowing bounty of 
its uses and affections and good will to men. A 
final impression and, perhaps, the most significant 
of the special part that he was called to play upon 
a memorable scene, is that of his affirmative as- 
pect. Seen at this remove, his denials in compari- 
son with his affirmations are an inappreciable 
amount. Nor can it be regarded as a distinction 
of small moment that, of all men in his time, or in 
his century, he was the most frank and fearless 
prophet of Christianity as the world's greatest 
natural religion, and of Religion as the most char- 
acteristic aspect of our human life. We get the 
right measure of his importance when we recog- 
nize the transition to these points of view as fun- 
damental to the religious evolution of the present 
time and his part in it as second to no other. 


Adams, Chables Fbancis, Parker's 
correspondence with, 328. 

Adams, John, Parker's lecture on, 279. 

Adams, John Quincy, 126 ; Parker's 
sermon on, 241 ; 242 ; presides at 
indignation meeting, 245. 

Agassiz, Prof. Louis, Parker criticises, 

Alcott, A. Bronson, 58; 84; 86 ; more 
metaphysical than Parker, 177; 
quoted, 261. 

Alcott, Louisa M., her preface to 
Leighton-Goddard Prayers, 214; 
helpfulness of Parker, 214 ; depicts 
him in Work, 214; hears him preach, 
215, 216. 

Alexander, Prof. S., author of Moral 
Order and Progress, 180. 

Alger, Henry, son of Rev. William R. 
Alger, 59. 

Alger, Rev. William R., 59 ; Parker 
writes on leaving for Europe, 353 ; 
357 n., 358 ; eulogizes Parker, 378. 

Allen, Dr. A. V. G., quoted in refer- 
ence to Jonathan Edwards, 91. 

Allen, Dr. Joseph Henry, opinion of 
Dr. Clarke's translations, 82 ; article 
on Parker in Examiner, 381; quoted 
from Unitarianism, 396. 

American Unitarian Association, 
Parker a life member of, 256 ; sub- 
ject of slavery introduced by Rev. 
S. J. May, 256 ; 267 ; Dr. Lothrop 
president of, 267 ; Executive Com- 
mittee of reports a creed, 268. 

Ames, Charles G., John Brown ser- 
mon, 365. 

Andrew, John A., Governor of Mas- 
sachusetts, 145 ; expostulates with 
Clarke and Parker, 145 ; counsel for 
Higginson and others, 263 ; quoted 
regarding John Brown, 338. 

Andrews, Samuel P., classmate, 33 ; 

Anti-Slavery Standard, affords aid to 
Parker, 278. 

Appleton, Thomas Gold, unfriendly 
to Parker, 309. 

Apthorps, Mr. and Mrs. R. E., faith- 
ful to Parker, 309 ; go abroad, 
313; letters from Parker, 313, 
314 ; 325 ; meet Parker in Eu- 
rope, 359 ; with Parker in Rome, 

Apthorp, Robert E., writes from 
Rome regarding Parker, 368. 

Apthorp, Mrs. R. E. (Eliza) is 
threatened socially, 309; Parker's 
friend, 312 ; friend of Frances Power 
Cobbe, 314 ; quoted regarding 
Parker's last days, 368. 

Arnim, Bettine von, Parker visits, 

Arnold, Matthew, quoted, 151. 

Augustus, John, Boston philanthro- 
pist, dies, 361. 

Austin, James T., Attorney-General, 

Austin, Richard T., Parker's class- 
mate, 33. 

Austin, Susan, wife of Richard T. 
Austin, 33. 

Ayres, John, parishioner of Parker, 
Parker writes him from Rome, 370 ; 
in Parker's wandering thoughts, 

Balfour, Arthur, Foundations of Be~ 
lief, 182. 

Bancroft, George, influenced by Ger- 
man thought, 82 ; takes charge of 
Frederic Henry Hedge in Germany, 
82; 85; Parker's correspondence 
with, 328. 



Barrows, Rev. Samuel J M edits West 
Roxbury Sermons, 63. 

Bartol, Rev. Cyrus A., in Divinity 
School, 33 ; quoted, 36 ; comes to 
Parker's defense, 118 ; Parker 
writes, on leaving for Europe, 352 ; 
353 ; on Parker after his death, 378. 

Baur, Ferdinand Christian, publishes 
Pastoral Epistles, 83 ; Parker 
meets, 136. 

" Bearsie," Parker's pet name for 
wife, 59; 296 ; his thoughtfulness to 
the last for, 372. 

Beecher, Henry *Ward, 98 ; more 
popular as lecturer than Parker, 

Beecher, Rev. Lyman, preaching in 
Boston, 25 ; 191. 

Beethoven, Crawford's statue of, 210, 

Bellows, Dr. Henry W., Parker's 
junior in Divinity School, 34 ; 
Suspense of Faith, 87 ; quoted, 172 ; 
civil service reform, 241 ; preaches 
before the Divinity School Alumni, 
363, 364 ; speaks of Parker after 
his death, 378 ; comment on Parker's 
doctrine of divine immanence, 395 ; 
on its contribution to Unitarian 
thought, 396. 

Belsham, Rev. Thomas, English So- 
cinian, 76. 

Berkeley, Bishop, 180 ; 342. 

Berry Street Conference, 98 ; exclu- 
sively ministerial, 256 ; Dr. Osgood 
speaks in defense of Dr. Dewey, 
256 ; Parker quoted, 260 n. ; 267. 

Blake, James Vila, minister of the 
Twenty-Eighth, 385. 

Blake, "William, his poem, " The Di- 
vine Image," 156. 

Blodgett, Levi, Parker's pseudonym 
in Norton controversy, 94. 

Bosanquet, Professor Bernard, Eng- 
lish metaphysician, 180. 

Boston Association of Congregational 
(Unitarian) Ministers, 54; Parker's 
letter to, 170 ; 255 ; 267 ; 269. 

Bowen, Professor Francis, reviews 
Emerson, 54. 

Brace, Charles Loring, 275. 

Bradley, Professor A. C, English 
metaphysician, 180. 

Broad, Nathaniel, Parker boards with, 

Brooks, Charles T., in Divinity School, 

Brooks, Preston S., assaults Sumner, 

Brown, John, blacksmith, Dutchess 
County, writes Parker, 288. 

Brown, John, Pottawatomie reprisals, 
326 ; Parker acquainted with doings 
in Kansas, 335; hears Parker preach, 
335 ; meets Parker, 335 ; secreted by 
Judge Russell, 335 ; arrives in Kan- 
sas, 336; meets Sanborn, 337; in- 
vited to Boston, 337; obliged to go 
back to Kansas, 338; on his way to 
Canada, 338 ; Parker's correspond- 
ence concerning his death, 366 ; 376. 

Brown, William B., personal reference 
to, 108. 

Browning, Robert and Mrs. E. B., 
Parker's friends in Rome, 367. 

Brownson, Orestes A., reviews Par- 
ker's book, 126 n. ; metaphysical, 

Bryant, William Cullen, Parker meets 
in Rome, 367. 

Buchanan, James, President, 331. 

Buchanan, Robert, quoted, 288. 

Biichner, Friedrich Karl Christian 
Ludwig, German materialist, 360. 

Buckingham, Edgar, in Divinity 
School, 33. 

Buckle, Thomas Henry, his passion 
for statistics compared with Par- 
ker's, 178; History of Civilization 
reviewed by Parker, 277 ; Parker 
visits, 358. 

Buckminster, Rev. Joseph S., 171. 

Buonarroti, Michael Angelo, Parker 
comments on, 367. 

Burke, Edmund, Reflections, 76. 

Burns, Anthony, 161 ; arrested, 260 ; 
brought before Commissioner Lor- 
ing, 260 ; counsel demanded for, 
261 ; marched out of Boston, 262 ; 
319; 323. 

Bushnell, Dr. Horace, his supernatu- 
ralism, 81 ; 393, 394. 

Butler, Bishop, Parker mentions, 342. 

Cabanis, representative materialist, 

Cabot, George, young housemate of 

Parker's, 292; his companion on 

journey, 354. 
Cabot, J. E., joint editor of Massa- 



chusetts Quarterly Review, with 
Parker and Emerson, 149 ; biogra- 
pher of Emerson, 149 n. 

Cabot, Lydia D., teacher in Parker's 
Sunday-school, 30 ; engaged to 
Parker, 30, 31; expostulates with 
him, 31 ; letters to, from Parker, 
45-47 ; 51, 52 ; 55 ; marriage, 56 ; 60. 

Caird, John and Edward, 180. 

Calhoun, John C, as Unitarian, 242; 
Webster's speech against, 260. 

Calvin, John, transcendentalism an- 
ticipated by, 91 n. ; 192. 

Carlyle, Thomas, his great men, 25 ; 
his message, 79 ; Resartus, 81 ; 82 ; 
Parker meets, 137 ; denounces Dial, 
147 ; 176 ; lack of sympathy with 
American Civil War, 182. 

Carpenter, Mary, Parker writes from 
Europe, 359. 

Channing, Grace Ellery, unveils Par- 
ker monument, 384. 

Channing, Dr. William Ellery, returns 
from Santa Cruz, 26 ; 69 ; praises an 
Examiner review, 69 ; talks over 
Strauss, 70 ; last years, 74 ; 77 ; fa- 
vorable to free inquiry, 78 ; 79 ; 85; 
heads petition for Kneeland's re- 
lease, 86; Baltimore sermon, 87 
93 n., 96 ; quoted, 109 ; died, 124 
125; 126; Parker's teacher, 141 
154 ; 171 ; 232 ; open letters, 239 
240; quoted in regard to prayer, 362. 

Channing, William Henry, Divinity 
Class of 1833, 83 ; his biography of 
Dr. Channing, 126 n. ; writes of Par- 
ker after his death, 378. 

Chapin, Rev. Edwin Hubbell, more 
popular than Parker as lecturer, 
278; quoted, 282. 

Chase, Salmon Portland, 285 ; Parker's 
correspondence with, 328; Parker's 
opinion of, 329; listens to Parker's 
sermon, 349; Parker writes on leav- 
ing for Europe, 353. 

Cheney, Mrs. Ednah Dean, quoted, 
303; Parker's friend, 312; Parker 
writes from Europe, 359. 

Cheyne, Rev. T. K., 167; opinions 
compared with Parker's, 397. 

Child, Lydia Maria, Dr. Francis's sis- 
ter, 122; Parker's friend, 312; 
Parker writes on leaving for Eu- 
rope, 353. 

Choate, Rufus, dies, 361. 

Christian Register, Tlie, 111 ; com- 
ments on Parker, 374 ; 384 n. 

Clarke, Rev. James Freeman, a Ger- 
manist, 82 ; 83 ; writes of Parker, 
127 ; exchanges with, 144, 145 ; 
made director of the American Uni- 
tarian Association, 145 ; 146 ; criti- 
cises Parker, 196, 203 n. ; supports 
resolution of sympathy, 363 ; 364 n.; 
371 ; praises Parker, 373 ; on Par- 
ker before Anti-Slavery Society, 
374 ; edits a selection of Parker's 
sermons, 396 n. 

Clarke, Rev. Jonas, the patriot min- 
ister of Lexington, 3. 

Clarke, Dr. Samuel, English Arian, 

Clay, Henry, 239. 

Cobbe, Frances Power, edition of 
Parker, 106 ; 143 n., 214 ; corre- 
sponds with Parser, 290, 292 ; 
friend of Mrs. Apthorp, 314 ; meet- 
ing with Parker, 314, 323 ; Parker 
writes from Europe, 359 ; meets 
Parker in Florence, 371 ; introduc- 
tion to Parker's works, 387. 

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, influence 
of, 81 ; 82 ; 176 ; 177 ; quoted, 227. 

Constant, Benjamin, French eclectic, 
83 ; 176. 

Conway, Moncure Daniel, offers reso- 
lution at Divinity School Alumni 
meeting, 362. 

Cooke, Frances E., Story of Theodore 
Parker, 383. 

Cooke, Rev. George Willis, account 
of Dial, 147. 

Cousin, "Victor, French eclectic, 83 ; 
meets Parker, 132 ; 176. 

Craft, Ellen, Parker arms himself in 
her defense, 244, 245; Parker's 
parishioner, 248 ; concealed at Ellis 
Gray Loring's, 250 ; Parker marries 
to William Craft, 251 ; starts for 
England, 251; calls on Parker in 
London, 359. 

Craft, William, fugitive slave, 248; 
Parker's parishioner, 248 ; Parker 
marries, 251 ; starts for England, 

Cranch, Christopher, in Divinity 
School, 33, 34 ; practicing music, 
35; mentioned, 57 ; 59 ; 86. 

Cudworth, Ralph, his Intellectual Sys- 
tem of the Universe, 95. 



Curtis, Judge, B. R., charges jury to 
indict Parker, etc., 262. 

Curtis, George Ticknor, United States 
commissioner, surrenders Sims, 253; 

Curtis, George "William, attends Par- 
ker's preaching, 147 ; quoted, 226 ; 
civil-service reform, 241 ; charm of 
manner, 278; lectures in Music 
Hall, 357 ; speaks in Music Hall 
after Parker's death, 377. 

Curtis, J. Burrill, attends Parker's 
preaching, 147. 

Cushman, Charlotte, Parker meets in 
Borne, 367. 

Dall, Mrs. Caroline Healey, writes 
Parker, 291 ; Parker's friend, 312. 

Dana, Richard H., demands counsel 
for Burns, 261. 

Darwin, Charles, 67 ; Parker's appre- 
ciation of, 369, 370 ; 388. 

Davis, Jefferson, for Kansas-Nebraska 
bill, 320. 

Dean, Peter, writes life of Parker, 

DeFoe, Daniel, Parker compared with 
as a pamphleteer, 276. 

Desor, Professor Edward, friendship 
with Parker, 311 ; entertains him 
in Europe, 311 ; Parker visits him, 
360,361; visits Parker in Rome, 370. 

De Wette, Commentary on the Psalms, 
39 ; Einleitung in dasAlte Testament, 
51 ; 56 ; 71 ; 84 ; 105 ; 106 ; 130 ; 136 ; 
166 ; 167 ; 168 ; 276 ; 397 ; 402. 

Dewey, Dr. Orville, preaches the 
Dudleian lecture, 40 ; 118 n. ; 232 ; 
quoted, 256 ; 256 n. 

Dial, The, Parker writes for, 147-149; 
finds serviceable, 277. 

Dole, Rev. Charles F., article in the 
New World, 113. 

Donald, Dr. E. Winchester, quoted, 
217 n. 

Douglas, Stephen A., introduces Kan- 
sas-Nebraska bill, 319; 320; his 
" squatter sovereignty," 324 ; de- 
scription of, 331 ; Parker character- 
izes, 334 ; 335. 

Dowden, Professor Edward, quoted, 

Driver, Professor S. R., 167 ; opinions 
compared with Parker's, 397. 

Dwight, John S., Parker's classmate, 

33; a musical performance, 35; 
hymn for West Roxbury ordination, 

Eaton, Dorman B., civil service re- 
form leader, 241. 

Edwards, Jonathan, 11; Miller's Life 
of, 19; claimed as a transcendental- 
ism 91 ; 192. 

Eliot, Hon. Samuel A., 246 n. 

Ellis, Charles, dies, 368. 

Ellis, Charles M. (son of Charles), 
Anti-Slavery Committee, 250; coun- 
sel for Parker, 262 ; speaks at Par- 
ker's memorial service, 375. 

Ellis, George E., Parker's classmate, 
33; joint editor of The Scriptural 
Interpreter, 40. 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, a transcen- 
dentalist, 49 ; Nature, 51 ; 54; 
quoted, 65 ; an evolutionist, 67 ; in- 
ability to administer the Lord's 
Supper, 79 ; publishes Nature, 79; 
80 ; Divinity School address, 87 ; 89 ; 
91 n.; 96 ; 127; describes Dial, 147; 
edits Dial, 147 ; 148 ; joint editor of 
Massachusetts Quarterly Review, 
149 ; Parker reviews, 153, 154 ; on 
religion in England, 172 ; compari- 
son of views with Parker's, 177; 
quoted, 228 ; quoted, 233 ; opinion 
of the 1850 compromise, 240 ; 
quoted, 303; 312; Parker's opinion 
of, 314; quoted regarding Shake- 
speare, 321 ; one of the three great 
leaders of the time, 330; referred to 
in a letter to Garrison, 353 ; speaks 
at Parker's memorial service, 376 ; 
387 ; spiritual philosophy of, 389; 
view of divine immanence as re- 
lated to Parker's, 395. 

Everett, Edward, influenced by Ger- 
man thought, 82; opinion of com- 
promise of 1850, 240. 

Everett, Oliver C, Parker's classmate, 

Everett, Dr. William, at Unitarian 
festival, 210. 

Ewald, Heinrich, Parker meets, 136 ; 

Examiner, The, Parker's connection 
with, 277 ; Dr. Hedge, editor of, 

Fichte, J. G., 175; views of, 176. 



Fish, Rev. William H., Parker's inter- 
est in, 299; Parker writes, 348; 
Parker writes on leaving for Europe, 

Folsom, Abigail H., Parker's patience 
with, 303. 

Forbes, Hugh, proves treacherous to 
John Brown, 336-338. 

Forbes, John M., his daughter wife of 
Colonel Russell, 298. 

Ford, Patience, Parker's friendship 
for, 286. 

Foster, Stephen S., criticises Parker's 
resolutions at Anti-Sabbath Conven- 
tion, 272. 

Francis, Dr. Convers, intercedes for 
Parker's degree, 28; minister at 
Watertown, 28; made Doctor of 
Divinity, 28; made Parkman Profes- 
sor, 28 ; death and funeral, 28; 
early German scholar, 29 ; lends 
Parker books, 36; mentioned, 47; 
library, 56; preaches ordaining ser- 
mon at West Roxbury, 56 ; 69 ; 77 ; 
95; letter from Parker, 121 ; sup- 
plies Parker's pulpit, 122; letter 
from Parker, 122 ; letter, 123, 124 
Parker writes him, 137, 138, 146 
typical letter from Parker, 164 
Parker writes on leaving for Europe, 

Franklin, Benjamin, quoted in refer- 
ence to Lexington fight, 5 n. ; 76 ; 
182; lecture on, by Parker, 280; 306; 

Freeman, United States Marshal, 262. 

Fremont, John C, 331. 

Frothingham, Dr. Nathaniel L., father 
of O. B. Frothingham, 115 ; 118; 119; 
120 ; 121; minister of First Church, 
143 ; management of Thursday lec- 
ture, 144; kindness to Parker in 
Rome, 367. 

Frothingham, Octavius Brooks, quot- 
ed, 53; quoted, 61 ; 76 ; his Boston 
humanists, 77; quoted, 96; 103; 
quoted, 108; 115; quoted, 119; 120; 
humble service, 143 ; quoted, 144 ; 
quoted, 174; quoted, 196; quoted, 

£ 211; quoted, 212 ; Parker's interest 
in, 299 ; warmth of tone concerning 
Parker, 301 ; letter to Parker, 301 
sees Parker off for Europe, 354 
369 n. ; eulogizes Parker, 379, 380 
Parker's biographer, 383. 

Fuller (Ossoli), Margaret, planning 
for The Dial, 85 ; writes for Dial, 
147; joint editor of Dial, 147. 

Furness, Dr. William Henry, pub- 
lishes Remarks on the Four Gospels, 
80 ; miracles as natural events, 100 ; 
256 n. ; estimate of Parker, 377. 

Gannett, Dr. Ezra Stiles, Scriptural 
Interpreter, 40 ; opinion of Chan- 
ning's sermon, 70; 77; 97 ; offended, 
116 ; 117 ; 119 ; Examiner article, 
171 ; criticises Parker's position, 
172 ; takes issue with some of his 
brethren, 174 ; Parker writes on 
leaving for Europe, 352. 

Gannett, William C, makes analyti- 
cal table of contents for new edition 
of Discourse, 111 ; quoted, 173 n. 

Garrison, Elizabeth Pease, youngest 
child of William Lloyd, 304. 

Garrison Wendell Phillips, list of 
Parker's matter in Liberator, 277; 
letter from Parker, 297. 

Garrison, William Lloyd, founds Lib- 
erator, 26, 66; Parker an ally of, 
165 ; 182 ; referred to by Lowell, 
239 ; quoted, 247 ; Parker's differ- 
ence and agreement with, 247 ; 
mobbed, 262 ; writes a call for an 
Anti-Sabbath Convention, 271 ; his 
resolutions pass, 272 ; 273 ; Parker 
attends child's funeral, 304 ; rela- 
tion to Parker, 304, 305 ; 327; Par- 
ker's admiration for, 330; Parker 
writes on leaving for Europe, 353 ; 
speaks on Parker before New Eng- 
land Anti-Slavery Society, 374 ; es- 
timated by Parker, 398. 

Garrison, William Lloyd, Jr., letter 
from Parker, 297. 

Gervinus, Professor G. G., Parker 
meets, 135, 136. 

Gibson, English sculptor, Parker 
meets in Rome, 367. 

Gladstone, Parker's sympathy with 
his free-trade policy, 369. 

Goddard, Matilda, joint editor of 
Parker's prayers, 214 ; Parker's 
friend, 312. 

Goddard, Rebecca, Parker's friend, 

Goethe, Parker's feeling about him, 
72; quoted, 395. 

Gough, John B., humor of, 278. 



Greeley, Horace, Parker character- 
izes, 334. 

Green, Columbus, Parker's nephew, 

Green, Thomas Hill, 180. 

Haldar, Rakhal Das, writes Parker 
from India, 289. 

Hale, John P., vote for, 243; counsel 
for Parker, 262 ; 285 ; Parker's cor- 
respondence with, 328, 330, 331. 

Hall, Rev. Nathaniel, Unitarian stand- 
ing, 77 ; Parker characterizes, 286. 

Hallowell, Colonel N. P., Parker's in- 
terest in, 298; colonel 55th Mass. 
Vols., 298. 

Hamilton, Alexander, paternity of, 
357, 357 n. 

Harney, General, hanging of desert- 
ers, 238. 

Harrison, William Henry, 235 n. 

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, judgment of 
art, 131; Parker meets, in Rome, 

Hayden, Lewis, in Burns riot, 262. 

Hayne, Robert Young, Webster's 
speech against, 260. 

Hedge, Frederic Henry, first-hand 
knowledge of German thought, 82; 
"Hedge Club," 84; planning for 
The Dial, 86; "Anti-Supernatural- 
ism in the Pulpit," 87; speaks at 
Berry Street Conference, 93 ; meta- 
physical, 177; editor of Examiner, 
277 ; opposes Conway's resolution, 
363 ; 364 n. 

Hegel, G. W. F., 175; 184. 

Heilprin, Michael, distinguished He- 
braist, scholar, and writer, 401. 

Heine, Heinrich, Parker translates, 

Hennell, Charles, Parker meets, 137. 

Herndon, William R., Lincoln's law 
partner, Parker writes him, 282 ; 
285; takes Parker's sermon back to 
Lincoln, 322, 323 ; mediates be- 
tween Lincoln and Parker, 333 ; 
Parker writes of Lincoln-Douglas 
debate, 334 ; 345. 

Higginson, Colonel Thomas Went- 
worth, his Margaret Fuller Ossoli, 
84 ; describes Transcendental Club, 
85 ; refers to the Curtis brothers, 
147 ; account of Dial, 147 ; 160 ; ac- 
count of Parker's library, 160 n. ; 

quotes John G. King, 161 n.; 
quoted, 162 ; 163 ; lack of colored 
support in Boston, 252 ; quoted, 
261 n. ; Lewis Hayden defends, 262 ; 
quoted, 264 ; letter from Parker, 
275 ; urges a scheme for wider cir- 
culation of Parker's books and 
pamphlets, 276 ; Parker's interest 
in, 299, 300; follows emigrants to 
Kansas, 325; quoted with reference 
to letter of Parker to Sumner, 331; 
member of John Brown Committee, 
336 ; criticism of Parker, 344 ; re- 
fers to Parker, 346 ; article in At- 
lantic, 381. 

Historic Americans, book made up of 
four lectures, 279 ; Parker prepar- 
ing, 349. 

Horton, Rev. Edward A., officer of 
Benevolent Fraternity of Churches, 
143 n. ; theological student at Mead- 
ville, 143 n. 

Howe, Mrs. Julia Ward, describes 
Parker, 211; opinion of Garrison, 
295 n. ; voyage companion of Parker, 
354 ; reference to Reminiscences, 
380 n. 

Howe, Dr. Samuel G., withdraws 
from Parker's preaching, 203 n. ; 
personal relations with Parker, 308; 
Parker cooperates with, 325 ; one of 
the John Brown secret committee, 
336 ; 338 ; voyage companion of 
Parker, 354. 

Hume, David, 342. 

Hunt, Miss Sarah, letter from Parker, 
282; Parker's friend, 312; special 
friend of Parker family, 313. 

Hunts, the, faithful to Parker, 309 ; go 
abroad, 313 ; letters from Parker, 
313, 314; meet Parker in Europe, 

Huxley, T. H., Parker in advance of, 
in regard to miracles, 108, 109, 
180 n. ; Parker hears lecture, 

Jackson, Francis, Parker writes re- 
garding John Brown, 366. 

Jacobi, F. H., teachings of, 175, 176 ; 
spiritual philosophy of, 389. 

Jefferies, Richard, Parker's delight 
in nature compared with, 340. 

Jefferson, Thomas, lecture of Parker 
on, never given, 279. 



Jenckes, Thomas Allen, civil-service 
reform, 241. 

Johnson, Rev. Samuel, 177 ; joint 
compiler of a Book of Hymns, 211; 
Parker's interest in, 299 ; his Theo- 
dore Parker, 379 n., 380. 

Jones, Henry, English neo-Hegelian, 

Jouffroy, French eclectic, 83 ; 176. 

Julian, George W., presidential vote 
for, 243. 

Kant, Immanuel, 175 ; views of, 176. 

Kimball, Rev. Moses G., Parker's in- 
terest in, 299. 

King, John G., quoted by Higginson, 

Kneeland, Abner, editor of Investi- 
gator, 86. 

Knight and Hughes, Southern slave 
catchers, 248 ; arrested, 249 ; de- 
scribed in poster, 250 ; Parker 
intimidates, 251. 

Kiichler, Dr. Hans Lorenz, Parker 
forms friendship with, 361 ; dies, 

Kuenen, Professor Abraham, 83; 111; 
135; 167. 

Landor, Walter Savage, quoted, 213. 

Latimer, Bishop Hugh, 222. 

Latimer, escaped slave, 245 ; 249. 

Ieighton, Rufus, joint editor of Par- 
ker's prayers, 214 ; compiles Lessons 
from the World of Matter and the 
World of Man, 219. 

Lessons from the World of Matter 
and the World of Man, compiled 
by Rufus Leighton, 218, 219. 

Lexington, Parker's birthplace, 1 ; 21 ; 
farm life in 49 ; 57 ; 72 ; 84 ; 305 ; 
306; 340. 

Lincoln, Abraham, Parker an ally of, 
165; opinion of Garrison, 247; his 
famous phrase based upon Parker's, 
322 ; reads Parker's sermon, 323; 
not a correspondent of Parker, 333; 
Parker never meets, 333 ; acquainted 
with Parker's writings, 333, 334; 
Parker's interest in, 334; 335; 345 ; 
Cooper Institute speech, 370 ; his 
gayety compared with Parker's, 

Lindsey, Rev. Theophilus, English 
Socinian, 76. 

Livermore, Abiel A., Parker's class- 
mate, 33; president of Meadville 
Theological School, 33. 

Locke, John, English Arian, 76. 

Longfellow, Rev. Samuel, joint com- 
piler of a Book of Hymns, 211; 
Parker's interest in, 299. 

Loring, Edward Greely, United States 
commissioner, 255; Burns is brought 
before him, 260; 263 ; denounced by 
Parker, 323. 

Loring, Ellis Gray, conceals Ellen 
Craft, 250. 

Lothrop, Dr. Samuel K., quoted, 102 
n. ; president of American Unitarian 
Association, 267, 268. 

Lowell, Charles, offers prayer at in- 
dignation meeting, 246. 

Lowell, James Russell, satirizes Par- 
ker in Fable for Critics, 71; 72; 
183; "Present Crisis," 206; de- 
scribes Parker in Fable for Critics, 
221, 222 ; letter to Charles F. Briggs, 
239; to Higginson about Parker, 

Luther, Martin, Parker writes of him, 

Lyman, Joseph, takes Parker on long 
drive, 349; fears for Parker's 
health, 349 ; reaches London, 358; 
takes charge of Parker, 358; ac- 
companies Parker to Mr. Desor's, 
360 ; account of Seward's speech, 

Macaulay, Thomas Babington, his 
memory, 367. 

Mackay, Charles, Parker visits, 358. 

Manley, John R., Parker writes, 351; 
Parker writes regarding John 
Brown, 366. 

Mann, Horace, Parker criticises his 
total abstinence, 272 ; Parker's cor- 
respondence with, 328 ; Parker's 
estimate of, 330; Parker tries to 
make peace between him and Phil- 
lips, 330 ; reference to, in letter to 
Garrison, 353; dies, 361 ; Parker 
writes of, 362. 

Martineau, Dr. James, Rationale of 
Religious Inquiry, 52; quoted, 
113 ; reviews Parker's Discourse, 
128 ; Parker preaches for him, 137 ; 
186 ; quoted, 193 ; 194; 271 ; Parker 
visits, 358; Parker hears preach, 



358 ; contrasted with Parker by 
O. B. Frothingham, 380 ; criticises 
materialism, 390, 391. 

Massachusetts Quarterly Review, ed- 
ited by Parker, Emerson, and 
Cabot, 149 ; as Parker's organ, 

May, Rev. Joseph, reminiscences of 
Parker, 297. 

May, Mary Goddard, wife of Deacon 
Samuel May, 159. 

May, Samuel (Deacon), 159 ; Parker 
keeps birthday and Miss Cobbe's, 

May, Rev. Samuel, of anti-slavery 
fame, 83 ; longevity, 244. 

May, Rev. Samuel J., introduces sub- 
ject of slavery to the American 
Unitarian Association, 256 ; 273 ; 
father of Rev. Joseph May, 297; 
Parker's interest in, 299 ; Parker's 
friendship for, 309 ; correspondence 
with, 310 ; speaks on Parker before 
New England Anti-Slavery Society, 
374 ; preaches at the Twenty-eighth, 

Mayo, Rev. A. D., quoted, 107 ; Par- 
ker's interest in, 299. 

Metcalf, Boston printer, refuses to 
print from Parker's handwriting, 

Mill, John Stuart, sympathy with 
American Civil War, 182. 

Milton, John, English Arian, 76. 

Moleschott, Jacob, German material- 
ist, 360 ; 390. 

Momerie, Dr. A. W., quoted, 191. 

Morison, Rev. John H., in Divinity 
School, 34 ; reviews Parker in Ex- 
aminer, 126, 127. 

Mott, Lucretia, her favorite motto, 
110, 111 ; criticises Parker's resolu- 
tions at Anti-Slavery Convention, 

Miiller, Dr. Max, 192. 

Music Hall, description of, 210 ; 276 ; 
348 ; Parker's lament over, 357 ; 
interest in, 358 ; Parker's burial 
hour, 372 ; Unitarian festival held 
in, May 29, 1858, 373; Twenty- 
Eighth obliged to leave, 385. 

National Unitarian Conference, its 
basis compared with Parker's 
thought, 205 ; preamble of, 268. 

Newman, Francis W., meets Parker 
in Europe, 132 ; Parker visits, 358. 

Niles, Rev. M. A. H., Parker corre- 
sponds with, 287; settled in Mar- 
blehead, 287 ; settled in Northamp- 
ton, 288. 

Norton, " Mr." Andrews, professor in 
Divinity School, 35; distrust of 
German studies, 36 ; opinion of Ger- 
man scholars, 43, 44 ; resigns his 
professorship, 52; disapproved of 
by Channing, 76; 82; 85; 88 ; " The 
Latest Form of Infidelity," 89 ; 90 ; 
replied to by Ripley, 92 ; 93 ; 100 ; 
104; 114; Note on the Pentateuch, 
167 ; hymn sung at Parker's me- 
morial service, 375. 

Noyes, Dr. George R., first teacher of 
Parker, 15; professor in Divinity 
School, 41 ; publishes article on the 
Messianic prophecies, 41 ; failure of 
prosecution, 41, 42 ; Examiner ar- 
ticle, 84; letter from Professor Nor- 
ton, 89 ; Parker sends his De- 
fence to, 263. 

Osgood, Samuel, in Divinity School, 
34 ; defends Dr. Dewey, 256. 

Paine, Thomas, 86; Parker compared 
with, as pamphleteer, 276. 

Paley, Dr. William, 9, 178, 342. 

Palfrey, John G., professor in the 
Divinity School, 34, 44 ; Jewish 
Antiquities, 88 ; Parker writes on 
leaving for Europe, 353. 

Parker, Andrew, brother of John 1st, 

Parker, Bethiah, wife of Nathaniel, 3. 

Parker, Edward, uncle of Thomas, 2. 

Parker Fraternity, instituted for so- 
cial purposes, 279 ; publishes ser- 
mon on John Brown, 366. 

Parker, Hananiah, son of John 1st, 2. 

Parker, Hananiah, son of Thomas, 2. 

Parker, Hannah, Theodore's mother, 

Parker, Isaac, oldest brother, 346; 
347 ; Parker writes from Europe, 

Parker, Captain John, Theodore's 
grandfather, 1 ; commands Minute 
Men, 4 ; 273. 

Parker, John, son of Hananiah 1st, 



Parker, John, Theodore's father, 6. 

Parker, Jonaa, son of Andrew, 3. 

Parker, Jonathan, son of Thomas, 2. 

Parker, Josiah, son of John 1st, 3. 

Parker, Lydia, Theodore's wife, gives 
books to Boston library, 159 ; aids 
Parker financially, 160 ; makes list 
of pamphlets, 276; called "Bear- 
sie," 296 ; devotion to her husband, 
369; Parker's thoughtfulness for, 
372; outlives husband, 386; loyal 
to his memory, 386 ; 387. 

Parker Memorial Meeting House, built 
by the Twenty-Eighth, 385. 

Parker, Nathaniel, son of John, 1st, 

Parker, Theodore, birth, 1 ; ancestry, 
2, 3 ; patriotic relics, 5 ; name and 
baptism, 6 ; autobiographical ac- 
count of his early natural surround- 
ings, 7, 8 ; human surroundings, 9, 
10 ; father's occupation and charac- 
ter, 9, 10 ; mother's character, 11 ; 
story of the tortoise, 12 ; youth and 
schooling, 13-16 ; first book bought, 
17; religious education, 17-20; early 
influences summed up, 21 ; enters 
Harvard College as non-resident 
student, 22 ; no degree, 23 ; hon- 
orary degree of A. M. in 1840, 23 ; 
begins district school teaching in 
Quincy, 23 ; at North Lexington, 
23 ; at Concord, 23 ; in Waltham, 
23; one of the Lexington militia, 
24; assistant in private school in 
Boston, 24 ; writes Dr. Howe, in 
1860, 24 ; his self -consciousness, 25; 
already overworking, 25 ; goes to 
hear Dr. Lyman Beecher preach, 
25 ; criticises his theology, 25, 26 ; 
does not hear Channing, 26 ; knows 
nothing of Garrison or the Libera- 
tor, 26; study of languages, 26; 
writes lecture for Lexington Ly- 
ceum, 26; opens a school in Water- 
town, 27 ; admits a colored girl and 
dismisses her, 27 ; meets Dr. Fran- 
cis, 28 ; first transcendental think- 
ing, 29; superintendent of Sunday- 
school, 29 ; meets Miss Cabot, 30 ; 
becomes engaged, 30 ; takes lessons 
in Hebrew at Cambridge, 31 ; en- 
ters Harvard Divinity School, 31 ; 
reading and translating much, 32 ; 
room at Divinity Hall, 32 ; his class- 

mates, 33 ; other mates in Divinity 
School, 33, 34; teachers, 34, 35; 
descriptions of, as student, 36 ; how 
he spent his time in the Divinity 
School, 36, 37 ; works for Jared 
Sparks, translating, 37; statement of 
belief as student, 37; criticises the 
early Fathers, 38 ; reads De "Wette's 
Commentary on the Psalms, 39; 
views of Jesus and miracles, 39, 40; 
helps edit The Scriptural Inter- 
preter, 40-42; theological conser- 
vatism, 43 ; new language studies, 
44; teaches the junior class in He- 
brew, 44; more translating, 44 ; 
writing verses, 45 ; goes to Wash- 
ington, 45 ; sees Van Buren and 
Clay, 45, 46 ; graduation essay, 46 ; 
first public preaching, 46 ; gradua- 
tion, 47 ; preaches in Watertown, 
47; candidating begins, 47; begin- 
ning of his ministry, 48-50; preaches 
in Barnstable, 50, 51; finishes the 
translation of De Wette, 51 ; one 
day's work at Northfield, 51, 52 ; 
death of his father, 52; controver- 
sial work begins, 52, 53 ; preaching 
in Salem, 53 ; reading habits, 53; 
theological problems, 53 ; thinking 
of marriage, 54, 55 ; his marriage 
takes place, 56 ; is ordained as min- 
ister of West Roxbury Society, 56 ; 
West Roxbury parish, personal as- 
pects, 58 ; his domestic life, 59; 60 ; 
physical energy, 60 ; periods of de- 
pression, 61 ; sermons before settle- 
ment, 62 ; West Roxbury sermons, 
63-68 ; meetings with Dr. Chan- 
ning, 69, 70 ; reading habits, 71, 72; 
invitation to Lexington pulpit, 72 ; 
sends Dr. Noyes his De Wette's In- 
troduction, 84 ; speaks at conven- 
tion of Come-outers, 86; hears Em- 
erson's Divinity School Address, 
88 ; careful advance, 88 ; writes 
the Levi Blodgett pamphlet, 92; 
growing consciousness of power, 93; 
viewed with suspicion, 94 ; preaches 
the Thursday Lecture, 95 ; loss 
of ministerial fellowship, 95 ; 
preaches South Boston sermon, 96- 
101; effects of South Boston ser- 
mon, 102-104; comforting work, 
105 ; lectures in Boston, 105 ; pub- 
lishes A Discourse of Matters Per- 



taining to Religion, 105 ; subsequent 
publications, 106; writing of Dis- 
course, 107 ; fortunes of, 107-109 ; 
character of, 109-112 ; difference 
from the conservative Unitarians, 
113, 114 ; refuses to withdraw from 
Boston Association, 115 ; account 
of a meeting of the association, 
115; writes article in Dial on Hol- 
lis Street Council, 116 ; offends 
Dr. Gannett, 116 ; criticises Pier- 
pont, 117 ; more criticism of the 
Discourse, 117, 118 ; effect of kind- 
ness on him, 119 ; nature of opposi- 
tion, 120 ; writes Dr. Francis, 121- 
124 ; opinion of Channing, 125 ; 
memorial sermon upon Channing, 
126 ; reviews of the Discourse, 126- 
129 ; studies as indicated by jour- 
nal, 129 ; delivers " Sermons on the 
Times " in Boston and elsewhere, 
130 ; need of rest, 130"; sails for 
Europe, 131 ; miserable voyage, 131 ; 
meets leading Unitarian scholars, 
132 ; meets Francis W. Newman, 
Cousin, etc., 132 ; ideas of sculp- 
ture, 133; visits Pisa, Florence, 
Borne, 133 ; visits the Pope, 134 ; 
visits Venice, 134 ; Padua, Vicenza, 
and Verona, 134 ; crosses Alps to 
Insbruck, 135 ; goes to Munich, 
Vienna, Prague, Dresden, 135; 
meets German scholars, 135, 136; 
visits Bettine von Arnim, 136; goes 
to England, 137; meets English 
scholars, 137 ; writes Dr. Francis, 
137, 138 ; reaches home, 138 ; harsh- 
ness, 139, 140 ; sensitiveness, 140 ; 
rejects 'policy of silence, 141 ; ex- 
changes with Bev. John T. Sar- 
gent, 141, 142; speaks at Thursday 
Lecture, 143, 144 ; exchanges with 
James Freeman Clarke, 144; first 
sermon inMelodeon, 146; the Box- 
bury ministry, 146; writes for Dial, 
147-149 ; companion writers for 
Dial, 148; joint editor of Mass. 
Quarterly Review, 149 ; articles in 
Mass. Quarterly Review, 149 ; char- 
acter of literary work, 150, 151 ; 
preparation for literary work, 151- 
153 ; describes Emerson, 153, 154 ; 
writes of Emerson's poems, 155; 
verse-writing, 156 ; examples of, 
156-158 ; his library, 159-162 ; his 

learning, 162 ; memory, 163 ; typi- 
cal letter, 164; patience with corre- 
spondents, 165 ; quality of scholar- 
ship, 165 ; use of scholarship, 165, 
166; his estimate of De Wette's 
Introduction, 166 ; translation of, 
168; cost of publication, 168; for- 
tunes of, 168 ; letter to Boston Asso- 
ciation, 170 ; criticised by Dr. Gan- 
nett, 171-173; philosophical and 
theological opinions, 174 ; individu- 
ality of his philosophy, 175; differ- 
ence from German philosophers, 
176 ; relation to French, 176 ; to Em- 
erson and other Americans, 177; to 
recent thinkers, 180 ; best state- 
ment of his philosophy, 181 ; details 
of, 181-186 ; best statement of his 
theology : Theism, Atheism, and 
the Popular Theology, 187 ; Anal- 
ysis of, 187-198 ; denunciations of 
popular theology, 190, 191 ; begins 
to preach in Melodeon, 200 ; de- 
scribes it in sermon, 200 ; ends con- 
nection with West Boxbury parish, 
201 ; first Sunday in Boston, 202 ; 
success of the enterprise, 202 ; lead- 
ing members of the Twenty-Eighth, 
203 ; the Twenty-Eighth organized, 
204 ; his feeling for it, 204 ; instal- 
lation sermon, 204-208 ; last ser- 
mon in Melodeon, 208 ; first sermon 
in Music Hall, 209 ; description 
of Music Hall, 210 ; form of ser- 
vice, 211 ; personal appearance and 
characteristics, 211, 212 ; Mr. Froth- 
ingham describes his preaching, 
212 ; flowers on the pulpit, 213 ; 
volume of prayers, 214 ; account of 
prayer by Louisa M. Alcott, 215 ; 
character of prayers, 216, 217; 
plans for sermons, 218; Ten Ser- 
mons of Religion, 218 ; Lessons 
from the World of Matter and the 
World of Man, 218 ; relative signifi- 
cance of different gifts, 219, 220 ; 
unconscious descriptions of himself, 
220, 221 ; Lowell's description of, 
221, 222 ; fivefold division of human 
nature, 222 ; appreciation of the 
human body, 223 ; sympathy with 
nature, 223, 224 ; delight in the 
various beauty of the world, 225, 
226 ; subordination of conscience to 
affection, 226 ; doctrine of piety, 



226-228; on the affections, 229; 
commercial side of life, 230 ; inter- 
relations of several pieties, 231 ; 
doctrine of immortality, 232; its 
defect, 233 ; genius for religion, 
234 ; first anti-slavery sermon, 235, 
236 ; preaches on Mexican War, 
236 ; speech in Faneuil Hall on 
Mexican War, 237, 238; sermon 
after treaty of peace, 238, 239 ; 
prints letter to the people of the 
United States, 239, 240; effect on 
him of the Compromise of 1850, 
240 ; estimate of the negro, 240 ; 
anti-slavery writing, 1848-50, 241; 
funeral discourses on John Quincy 
Adams and President Taylor, 241 ; 
anticipates civil service reform, 241 ; 
effect of Fugitive Slave Law, 243 ; 
large scheme of study set aside, 
243 ; overwork, 244 ; dramatic in- 
stinct, 244 ; his first fugitive slave 
case, 245; speaks in Faneuil Hall 
after the passage of the Fugitive 
Slave Bill, 246, 247 ; speaks before 
the New England Anti-Slavery So- 
ciety, 247; William and Ellen Craft 
affair, 248, 249 ; on the Executive 
Committee of the Vigilance Com- 
mittee, 249 ; fugitive slave scrap- 
book, 250; the Crafts, 250, 251 
Shadrach, fugitive slave, 251, 252 
Thomas Sims, another, 252, 253 
preaches sermon, " The Chief Sins 
of the Nation," 254 ; preaches on 
anniversary of Sims's rendition, 254; 
writes Sumner on his election to 
the Senate, 255 ; later relations to 
Unitarians, 255-267 ; denounces Fu- 
gitive Slave Law at Berry Street 
Conference, 256 ; style of sermons, 
addresses, etc., 257; sermon on 
Webster, 258-260; Anthony Burns, 
fugitive slave, 260-262 ; indicted, 
262 ; publishes his Defence, 263 ; 
effect of anti-slavery work on min- 
istry, 264, 265 ; laments lack of or- 
ganization in church work, 265 ; 
failure to have a Sunday-school, 
266; early finishing of sermons, 
266; Saturday afternoon talks to 
women, 266, 267 ; criticises creed 
published by Unitarian Association, 
268-270; relation to reforms, 270; 
quality of optimism, 270, 271 ; at- 

tends Anti-Sabbath Convention and 
presents resolutions, 272 ; temper- 
ance, 272, 273 ; ideas of war, 273, 
274 ; opinion of capital punishment 
and prison discipline, 274 ; " The 
Woman Question," 274, 275; inter- 
est in fallen women, 275 ; ideal pos- 
sibilities of society, 275 ; his publi- 
cations, 276 ; number of pamphlets, 
276 ; publication schemes, 276 ; ar- 
ticles in periodicals, 277 ; lyceum 
lectures, 278-285 ; correspondence, 
285 ; with Patience Ford, 286; with 
Robert White, Jr., 287; with Rev. 
M. A. H. Niles, 287, 288 ; with John 
Brown (blacksmith), 288 ; with 
young man in Illinois, 289; with 
Frances Power Cobbe, 290 ; makes 
home in Boston, 291 ; his study, 
292 ; members of family, 292 ; hos- 
pitality of the home, 293 ; rapid 
reading, 294; handwriting, 294 ; 
personal habits, 294, 295; Sunday 
evening meetings, 295; lightheart- 
edness, 295, 296; love for little 
children, 296 ; relation to young 
men, 297-299 ; relation to other 
liberal ministers, 299-301 ; letter 
from O. B. Frothingham, 301, 302 ; 
little kindnesses, 302-304 ; relation 
to Garrison, 304, 305 ; dealings with 
tragical events, 305 ; the claims of 
relationship, 305, 306; frankness in 
correspondence, 307 ; tenderness, 
307, 308; various friendships, 308, 
309 ; friendship with S. J. May, 
309-311 ; friendship with Professor 
Edward Desor, 311 ; friendships 
with women, 312 ; with Miss Hunt, 
312, 313 ; with Mrs. Apthorp, 313, 
314 ; with Frances Power Cobbe, 
314; character of journal, 315 ; 
various entries, 316, 317 ; passage 
of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, 319 ; 
sermon on, 320, 321 ; address before 
Anti-Slavery Society of New York 
on Nebraska bill, 321 ; a variant of 
Lincoln's famous phrase, 322 ; ser- 
mon taken to Lincoln, 323 ; anti- 
slavery sermons of June and July 
1854, 321-324; interest in Kansas 
struggle, 325 ; sermon of November 
26, 1854, 326 ; anti-slavery work of 
May 7, 1856, 326, 327 ; correspond- 
ence with political anti-slavery 



leaders, 328 ; with statesmen, 328 ; 
Seward thanks, for material, 329 ; 
admiration for Chase, 329 ; estimate 
of Horace Mann, 330; writes Wil- 
son on his becoming senator, 330 ; 
correspondence with John P. Hale, 
330 ; prophesies civil war, 331 ; 
correspondence with Sumner, 331, 
332 ; preaches upon Brooks's assault 
on, 333 ; absence of Lincoln from 
correspondence, 333 ; indirect rela- 
tions with Lincoln, 333, 334 ; opin- 
ion of Douglas, 334 ; opinion of 
Greeley, 334 ; of Seward, 334 ; re- 
lations to John Brown, 335-339; 
continued interest in theological 
matters, 339 ; general character of 
preaching, 339 ; his one lecture in 
a slave State, 339 ; sermon upon 
beauty, 340 ; assumes charge of so- 
ciety in Watertown, 340 ; preaches 
to Progressive Friends, 340, 341 ; 
metaphysicians criticised, 342 ; 
preaches on the religious excite- 
ment, 343 ; excites the wrath of the 
traditionalists, 343; sermons on re- 
vivals, 344; addresses the Anti- 
Slavery Convention, 344 ; his last 
great utterance on slavery, 344, 345; 
early health, 346; ill-health of fam- 
ily, 346, 347 ; writes Miss Steven- 
son, 347 ; his health gauge, 347 ; 
first serious break, 347 ; miserably 
sick, 348 ; vicissitudes of travel, 
348; serious results, 348; second 
visit to Progressive Friends, 348 ; 
Mr. Lyman takes on long drive, 
349 ; appreciation of natural beauty, 
349 ; fears for his health, 349 ; pre- 
pares Historic Americans, 349 ; de- 
livers three of them, 349 ; continued 
illness and accident, 350 ; delivers 
his last sermon, 350, 351 ; hemor- 
rhage, 351 ; given leave of absence, 
351; writes a "Farewell Letter" 
to the society, 351 ; slight chance 
of recovery, 352 ; West Indies and 
Europe decided on, 352; parting 
letters to friends, 352, 353 ; leaves 
Boston, 354 ; stops at Havana, 354 ; 
writes "Experience as a Minister," 
a letter to the Twenty-Eighth, 354- 
356 ; passion for statistics, 357 ; 
journal entries, 357 ; reaches Lon- 
don, 358; visits men and places, 

358 ; Mr. Lyman arrives, 358 ; meets 
Sumner, 359 ; meets Hunts and 
Apthorps, 359 ; writes many letters, 
359 ; laments Franco- Austrian war, 
359, 360; visits Desor, 360; last 
elaborate piece of work, 360 ; physi- 
cal energy, 361 ; friendship with 
Dr. Kiicbler, 361 ; writes Dr. Howe 
on death of Horace Mann, 361, 362; 
mourns loss of prayer for Twenty- 
Eighth, 362 ; writes letter of resig- 
nation, 362 ; Divinity School deal- 
ings with, 363, 364 ; reaches Rome, 
364 ; severe cold weather, 365 ; ef- 
fects of, 365 ; sorrow at failure of 
John Brown's raid, 365 ; letter 
upon it published, 366 ; quality of 
journal, 367 ; social life, 367 ; abun- 
dance of life, 367, 368; archaeologi- 
cal studies, 368 ; changes for the 
worse, 368 ; relations with Mrs. 
Parker reversed, 369; sets out to 
write autobiography, 369; alludes 
to Darwin's Origin of Species, 369, 
370 ; yearns for Boston, 370 ; writes 
his last letter, 370 ; goes to Florence, 
371 ; meets Miss Cobbe, 371 ; wan- 
dering fancies, 371 ; thoughtfulness 
for others, 371, 372; the end, 372; 
news of death reaches Boston, 373 ; 
how received, 373-375; meeting of 
the Twenty-Eighth, 375, 376 ; Cur- 
tis speaks in Parker's place, 377 ; 
opinions of different ministers, 377- 
379; Frothingham (O. B.) eulogizes, 
379-381 ; articles on, 381 ; The 
Weiss biography, 381, 382 ; other 
biographies, 382, 383 ; other monu- 
ments than literary, 383, 384 ; un- 
veihng of new monument, 384 ; 
building of Parker Memorial, 385 ; 
his wishes regarding books carried 
out by his wife, 386 ; Miss Cobbe's 
edition of his works, 386 ; posthu- 
mous reputation, 387, 388 ; defec- 
tive elements, 388 ; his influence on 
course of thought, 389-396 ; recent 
standing among Unitarians, 396 n. ; 
his biblical criticism as related to 
the present, 397 ; standing as a re- 
former, 398 ; anti-slavery record, 
398, 399 ; his fivefold nature, 399- 
405 ; physical traits, 400 ; intellec- 
tual, 400-402 ; moral, 402 ; affec- 
tional, 403; spiritual, 404; abun- 



dance of life, 405; affirmative 
aspect, 405 ; distinction and impor- 
tance, 405. 

Parker, Thomas, Theodore's earliest 
American ancestor, 2. 

Parkman, Dr. Francis, jocosity, 114 ; 
quoted, 117 ; member of " Sirty," 

Parkman, John, in Divinity School, 

Peabody, Elizabeth P., Parker's 
friend, 312. 

Phillips, Jonathan, 239. 

Phillips, Wendell, speaks at indigna- 
tion meeting, 246; Anti- Slavery 
Committee, 250 ; indicted, 262; 273; 
more brilliant than Parker as lec- 
turer, 278; garden touches Par- 
ker's, 291 ; relations with Parker, 
308, 309; opinion of men who keep 
a diary, 314 ; 327; criticises Horace 
Mann, 330; not permitted to speak 
May 24, 1856, 333; 371; speaks 
on Parker before New England 
Anti-Slavery Society, 374; speaks 
at Parker's memorial service, 376, 
377 ; his anti-slavery rank, 398. 

Pierce, Franklin, first message, 320. 

Pierpont, Rev. John, hymn for 
West Roxbury ordination, 57 ; 77 ; 
preaches against rumselling, etc., 

Pillsbury, Parker, criticises Parker's 
resolutions at the Anti-Sabbath Con- 
vention, 272. 

Polk, James K., his administration 
reviewed, 152. 

Porter, Noah, president of Yale Col- 
lege, 126 n. ; reviews Parker's Dis- 
course, 126 n. 

Prescott, William H., Parker's elabo- 
rate criticism of his works, 152. 

Price, Dr. Richard, Benjamin Frank- 
lin's friend, English Arian, 

Priestley, English Socinian, 76. 

Progressive Friends (Longwood, Pa.), 
20; group of reformers, 340, 341 ; 
Parker preaches to them, 341 ; 
Parker visits second time, 348. 

Relics, Revolutionary, Parker's two, 

Reville, Dr. Albert, Life and Writ- 
ings of Theodore Parker, 382. 

Ripley, George, writes for Examiner, 

52; Brook Farm, 57 ; 69 ; staying at 
West Roxbury, 69; meeting of 
" The Friends," 85, 86 ; replies to 
Mr. Norton, 92 ; 93 ; 97 ; letter to 
Parker, 146 ; sells library, 159 n. ; 
metaphysical, 177 ; Parker writes, 
350 ; Parker writes on leaving for 
Europe, 353; Parker writes from 
Rome, 367. 

Ritchie, Professor David G., English 
metaphysician, 180. 

Robbins, Rev. Chandler, quoted, 118 ; 

Rogers, Professor H. D., Parker 
meets, 359. 

Royce, Professor Josiah, 180, 196 n. 

Rubens, 367. 

Russell, George R., neighbor and pa- 
rishioner, 56 ; 58 ; 291. 

Russell, Colonel Harry, Parker's in- 
terest in, 298; colonel of Massa- 
chusetts cavalry, 298. 

Russell, Judge, secretes John Brown, 

Russells, the, Parker's friends, 312. 

Sanborn, Frank B., biographical 
sketch for West Roxbury Ser- 
mons, 63 ; 158 ; Parker cooperates 
with, 325 ; one of the John Brown 
secret committee, 336 ; meets John 
Brown, 337, 338; prepares resolu- 
tions on Parker, 375 ; reads ode at 
Parker memorial service, 375. 

Sanford, Albert, letter from Parker 
concerning Swedenborg, 300 n. 

Sargent, Rev. John T., asks Parker to 
exchange with him, 141 ; preaches 
at Suffolk Street Chapel, 142 ; 
Benevolent Fraternity admonishes 
him, 142 ; he resigns, 142 ; 145 ; 
Parker writes on leaving for Eu- 
rope, 353 ; speaks on Parker before 
New England Anti-Slavery Society, 

Sargent, Mrs. John T., hostess of 
Radical Club, 143 n. 

Schelling, Parker meets, 135 ; 175 ; 
views of, 176 ; 184 ; spiritual philo- 
sophy of, 389. 

Schleiermacher, F. D. E., 92 ; 192. 

Schlosser, F. C, Parker meets, 135. 

Scriptural Interpreter, editors, 40 ; 
its character, 41 ; fears excited by, 



Sears, Rev. Edmund H., in Divinity 
School, 34. 

Seger, Hannah, Parker's grandmother, 

Sewall, Samuel Edmund, Anti-Slavery 
Committee, 250. 

Seward, William H., 285; Parker's 
correspondence with, 328, 329 ; set 
aside, 334 ; speech of, 370. 

Seward, Mrs. W. H., anti-slavery con- 
victions, 328, 329 ; Sumner's corre- 
spondence with, 329. 

Shackford, Charles C, Unitarian min- 
ister at South Boston, 96 ; minister 
in Lynn, 96; teacher in Cornell 
University, 96 ; 316. 

Shadrach, fugitive slave, 251 ; escapes 
to Canada, 252. 

Shakespeare, William, 321 ; 342. 

Shaw, Francis George, West Roxbury 
parishioner, 56 ; 58 ; 291. 

Shaw, Lemuel, at the Burns arrest, 

Shaw, Robert Gould, of heroic fame, 
58 ; Parker's Sunday-school scholar, 
244 ; 274 ; Parker's interest in, 

Shaws, the, Parker's friends, 312. 

Sherman, General William Tecumseh, 
characterizes war, 236. 

Sillsbee, Rev. William, classmate, 33 ; 
helps edit The Scriptural Inter- 
preter, 40 ; 53 ; 59. 

Sims, Thomas, assaulted, 252 ; de- 
livered over, 253 ; treatment by 
master, 254. 

"Sirty" or " Sirti," imaginary club, 

Smith, Gerrit, one of the John Brown 
secret committee, 336 ; Sanborn 
and Brown meet at his house, 337 ; 

Smith, Increase, Parker writes on 
leaving for Europe, 353. 

Spaulding, Rev. H. G., Parker's in- 
terest in, 298, 299. 

Spencer, Herbert, 111 ; 388. 

Stanton, Theodore, instigator of the 
new monument to Parker, 384. 

Stearns, Benjamin, Parker's grand- 
father, 9. 

Stearns, George L., Parker cooperates 
with, 325 ; one of the John Brown 
secret committee, 336 ; 338. 

Stearns, Hannah, Parker's mother, 6. 

Stebbins, Horatio, in Divinity School, 

Stephenson, the inventor, 367. 

Sterling, John, Parker meets, 137. 

Stetson, Rev. Caleb, delivers the or- 
daining charge at West Roxbury, 
57 ; speaks at Berry Street Confer- 
ence, 93. 

Stevenson, Hannah, inmate of Par- 
ker's family, 292 ; characterizes 
certain of Parker's sermons, 312 ; 
Parker's friend, 312 ; Parker's 
phrase in Lincoln's Gettysburg ad- 
dress, 322 ; Parker writes, 347 ; 
characterizes Joseph Lyman, 349; 
companion of Parker's journey, 
354; receives Parker's last letter, 

Stewart, Rev. Samuel B., lecture on 
Parker, 396 n. 

Story, William W., American sculp- 
tor, his family Parker's neighbors 
in Rome, 367 ; designer of the 
new Parker monument, 384 ; reads 
poem at unveiling, 384. 

Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Parker meets 
in Rome, 367. 

Strauss, David Friedrich, publishes 
Life of Jesus, 83 ; first copy brought 
to America, 83; 96; 135 ; review by 
Parker, 149, 151, 152. 

Stuart, Professor Moses, professor at 
Andover, 88. 

Sumner, Charles, 150; 163; character- 
ized by George William Curtis, 226 ; 
True Grandeur of Nations, 236; 
civil service reform, 241 ; writes 
Parker, 254 ; elected to United 
States Senate, 255 ; Parker writes 
him, 255 ; letter from Parker to, 
274; 285; 309; Parker's correspond- 
ence with, 328 ; 330, 331 ; estima- 
tion of Parker, 332 ; assaulted by 
Brooks, 332 ; feeling of Parker for, 
332, 333 ; meets Parker in Europe, 
359 ; anti-slavery leader, 398. 

Taney, Judge Roger Brooke, Dred 
Scot decision, 262. 

Tayler, Rev. John James, English 
Unitarian scholar, 132; meets Par- 
ker, 132 ; quoted, 167 n., 358. 

Taylor, "Father," quoted, 217. 

Taylor, Zachary, sermon on, 241; 



Ten Sermons of Religion published, 
1852, 218. 

Thackeray, William Makepeace, 358. 

Thayer, Caroline, gives Parker box 
made from " Old Ironsides," 292 n. ; 
Parker's friend, 312. 

Theism, Atheism, and the Popular 
Theology, 187-198. 

" The Transient and Permanent in 
Christianity," title of South Boston 
sermon, 96. 

Tholuck, Professor F. A. G., Parker 
meets, 135. 

Thoreau, Henry D., 225. 

Ticknor, George, his library, 165. 

Torrey, Charles T., funeral service, 

Tribune, the New York, affords help 
to Parker, 278. 

Twenty-Eighth Congregational So- 
ciety, leading members of, 203 ; or- 
ganized, 204 ; Parker's feeling for, 
204 ; avails itself of the Music Hall, 
209 ; institute the " Parker Frater- 
nity," 279 ; Wasson minister of, 
301 ; centre of Parker's life, 302 ; 
Parker's " Farewell " to, 351; Par- 
ker writes a longer letter to, " Ex- 
perience as a Minister," 354 ; Par- 
ker writes letter on annual picnic, 
359 ; Parker grieves about, 326 ; 
letter of resignation, 362, 363; 
Samuel J. May preaches before, 
375 ; builds Parker Memorial Meet- 
ing-house, 385 ; leaves Music Hall, 
385; settled ministers after Par- 
ker, 385; property made over, 
358 ; " a thing ensky'd " to Parker, 

Tuckerman, Hon. Charles, address at 
the unveiling of the new Parker 
monument, 384. 

Tuckerman, Henry T., in Divinity 
School, 34. 

Ulmann, Parker meets, 136. 
Unitarian ministers, different types, 


Van Buren, Martin, 235 n. ; Free Soil 

vote for, 243. 
Van Dyke, Dr. Henry J., quoted, 191. 
Vatke, Professor J. K. W., publishes 

Religion of the Old Testament, 83; 

111; Parker hears him, 135. 

Vereschagin, 237. 

Vogt, Professor Karl, German mate- 
rialist, 360 ; 390. 

Voltaire, 182 ; Parker compared with 
as a pamphleteer, 276. 

Walker, Rev. Henry A., brings the 
first copy of Strauss's Life of 
Jesus to America, 83. 

Wallace, Professor, English meta- 
physician, 180. 

Ward, Professor James, quoted in re- 
gard to naturalism, 391. 

Ware, Rev. Henry, Jr., author of 
anti-slavery hymn, 34, 35 ; pro- 
fessor in Divinity School, 35 ; offers 
ordaining prayer at West Roxbury, 
56, 79. 

Washington, George, 125 ; lecture on, 
by Parker, 279. 

Wasson, David Atwood, 177 ; letter 
from Parker, 240 n. ; Parker's rela- 
tions with, 300 ; installed minister 
of the Twenty-Eighth, 301 ; writes 
regarding Parker, 377 ; article in 
Examiner, 381. 

Waterston, Rev. R. C, invited to a 
new society, 145. 

Watson, Professor, English Neo-Kan 
tian, 180. 

Webster, Daniel, 126 ; 150 ; 157 ; 241 ; 
as Unitarian, 242 ; 7th of March 
speech, 246, 247 ; 254 ; dies, 258 ; 
Parker preaches sermon on, 258, 
259 ; passion for the Union, 260 ; 
political service, 260. 

Weiss, Rev. John, minister at Water- 
town, 28 ; speaks at Dr. Francis's 
funeral, 28 ; mentioned, 32 ; quoted 
with reference to Parker's linguistic 
studies, 44 ; quoted, 102, 115 ; com- 
plaints of Parker's handwriting, 
294 ; exhibition of Parker's political 
and anti-slavery correspondence, 
328 ; 331 ; 369; Parker's biography, 
381, 382. 

Wellhausen, Professor Julius, 111, 
135 ; 167. 

West Roxbury Sermons, volume of 
Parker's, 63. 

Wheelock, Rev. EdwinM. , John Brown 
sermon, 365. 

White, Anna, daughter of Robert 
White, Jr., 287 ; presides over 
Shaker community, 287. 



White, Richard Grant, nephew of 
Robert White, Jr., 287. 

White, Robert, Jr. , corresponds with 
Parker, 287. 

White, William H., Parker's early 
teacher, 15 ; 297. 

Whitman, Walt, compared with Par- 
ker, 223 ; 340. 

Whittier, John G., " Ichabod," 157. 

Wiertz, Antoine Joseph, his war pic- 
tures, 237. 

Wilson, Henry, combats Parker, 328; 
Parker's correspondence with, 

Wirt, William, slaveholding senator, 

Electrotyped and printed by H. O. Houghton &* Co. 
Cambridge, Mass, U.S. A. 


2075 R. Theodore Parker john white chad wick 

Nothing more strikingly shows the change that is coming over the world with 
respect to religious thought than its changed attitude toward such men as Theodore' 
Parker. By most good people in his lifetime Parker was regarded as an arch- 
heretic. To-day the world sees differently. Parker is justly regarded as one of 
the few great intellectual giants our country has produced. And. his greatness 
of mind is acknowledged to have not more than equalled his greatness of soul. As 
Thackeray once said, few men in America have been so well worth knowing 
as Theodore Parker. This book is not a mere portraiture. It is a successful 
attempt to give the reader a just estimate of the man — his mental range, his 
opinions, his influence — in every particular.